02/23/2002 12:00AM

Fair Grounds: Descapate impressive

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NEW ORLEANS - A division lacking a standout might have found one in Descapate, who won the Chou Croute Handicap at Fair Grounds by seven lengths.

Descapate's performance was strong enough on its own, but she also had to overcome post 10 in a crowded field while making her first start in a stakes race.

The obstacles, however, proved slight, as Descapate sat comfortably in behind a fast pace, took over turning for home and drew out in the stretch run. Her time for 1 1/16 miles was 1:42.90, faster than Repent ran in the Risen Star Stakes last weekend and less than a second off the track record.

Mimi's Tizzy finished second, a neck ahead of Gal on the Go.

Descapate's race brought order to the filly and mare division here, and perhaps in the region, as the Chou Croute, on paper at least, looked like an evenly matched race.

"I told Mr. Steve [Asmussen], this may be the best filly I ever sat on," said jockey Donnie Meche. "She could be anything."

Descapate, a 4-year-old Dehere filly, won her debut at Churchill Downs last June by almost five lengths and was promptly purchased by Team Valor and Bill Heiligbrodt. She won her first start for her new owners by 11 lengths at Saratoga, than lost two allowance races before winning another allowance here on Jan. 20 by five lengths.

But that race was only a shadow of the show she put on Saturday. As Maltese Superb dueled on the lead with Momentous, Descapate got position from her wide post. When Meche asked her to tackle the leaders, she responded quickly and was never threatened.

"She's always shown a tremendous amount of talent," Asmussen said. "She's run fast times before, but I think it shows a new level of class for her to do it in a stakes race from the outside."

Descapate paid $5.80 to win as the favorite.