07/26/2009 11:00PM

Experience pays off in Princess


BOSSIER CITY, La. - Previous experience on the grass in the 2-year-old ranks can be a valuable asset at this time of year, and last Saturday's $50,000 Princess Stakes at Louisiana Downs was a perfect example.

Red Hot Buddha stormed down the lane to win the first major test for juveniles here this season, with Blading Gold Ring reporting home second. James Hodges trains both fillies, and together they represented two-thirds of entire field's prior exposure to the grass. The results reversed the finishing positions of Hodges's two fillies in a maiden special weight race on the turf here June 21.

"I think the fact that both had raced over the grass was a big help," Hodges said earlier this week. "Both fillies were cut out to be nice ones, regardless of the surface, but the fact that they had been over the turf before seemed to give us a bit of an edge."

The Princess was the first of three races on the grass for 2-year-olds of both sexes. Next up is the Sunny's Halo and the Donnie Wilhite at a mile on Aug. 15, followed by the $150,000 Sunday Silence and the $100,000 Happy Ticket at 1 1/16 miles on the Super Derby undercard Sept. 15.

"We are going to go with both of them back in the Donnie Wilhite," Hodges said. "Both are pretty well bred to handle two turns. Hopefully from there we can continue on in the Happy Ticket."

Cart at top of trainer standings

The midway point of the meeting is this weekend, and for what seems to be the 11th time in as many weeks, there is a different name atop the trainer standings.

Jerry Cart and Morris Nicks share the lead with 16 winners, and both have been steady all meeting long. Cart had a banner day last Friday, when he sent out longshot winners Midges Expectations ($66) and Red Venture ($33.60). Cart bred both of his winners as well as Sea the Soldier, who won the fifth race for trainer Harry Hahn.

"That is kind of the way my operation has been going in recent years," Cart said. "I am focusing more on breeding and raising my own stock versus working the claiming game. I just don't claim as many horses as I once did."

Cart also said that increased numbers have not hurt his position in the trainer standings.

"I have a few more head this year than in recent seasons," he said. "I have about 20 stalls at the track and another 20 to 25 head at the Benton Training Center. I move horses in and out as I need to."