03/28/2005 12:00AM

Fair Grounds: Merry Mary takes Red Camelia


Merry Mary posted a mild upset in the Red Camelia Handicap on closing day at Fair Grounds, beating favored Destiny Calls at odds of 9-2. Merry Mary and stablemate Autobesarah both finished ahead of favored Destiny Calls, who won the Red Camelia last year.

Front-running Destiny Calls was hounded by Vitamin Bag on the front end through six furlongs in 1:13.80 in the Red Camelia, a mile race on the turf for Louisiana-bred fillies and mares. Merry Mary enjoyed a dream trip tracking the pace along the rail under jockey Gerard Melancon.

Destiny Calls drew off at the top of the stretch, but was tired from her early efforts and surrendered the lead to Merry Mary in midstretch. Autobesarah outfinished Destiny Calls for place in the final yards. Merry Mary finished a length clear of Autobesarah, who was another neck in front of Destiny Calls.

"I let the pace go, and I put myself in the perfect spot," said Melancon. "When I called on her, she gave me her all. I had the perfect trip."

Trained by John Taylor, Merry Mary returned $11.20 to win after completing one mile in 1:40.05 over a turf course listed as firm.

"I have been training since 1985, and this is my biggest stakes win," said Taylor.

A 4-year-old daughter of Leestown, Merry Mary earned $60,000 for the win, boosting her career earnings to $199,079 for owner Forgreen Racing Stable LLC.

* Earlier on the card, Smalltown Slew ($4) won the Magnolia State Handicap for older horses, covering six furlongs in 1:11.27. He beat Cheery Hour by three-quarters of a length, with Driftwood Lodge another neck back in third.