09/25/2004 12:00AM

Fantasticat upsets Super Derby

Louisiana Downs
Fantasticat (right) holds off Borrego to win the Super Derby by a half-length.

BOSSIER CITY, La. - Trainer Bobby Barnett made a triumphant return to Louisiana Downs on Saturday when he sent out Fantasticat to a 14-1 upset in the Grade 2, $500,000 . Borrego finished a half-length back in second in the 1 1/8-mile race, while it was another 1 1/4 lengths back in third to pacesetter Britt's Jules.

Imperialism, the favorite, made a mild bid up the rail and finished fourth, four lengths behind Britt's Jules.

Fantasticat ($31.40) settled about nine lengths behind South Africa and Britt's Jules, who were clear of the field as they dueled over a muddy track. South Africa ran the opening quarter-mile in 23.06 seconds, while Britt's Jules took over after a half-mile in 47.39 seconds. Meanwhile, Fantasticat advanced along the rail down the backside, nimbly navigated horses on the final turn, and angled out into the stretch to chase Britt's Jules.

He caught him inside the final furlong, then held off a bid from Borrego. Fantasticat covered the distance in 1:51.40. Gerard Melancon rode the winner for Russ and Shelda Sherrod's R Bar S Thoroughbreds, which is based in Louisiana.

"I had a little traffic in the last turn, but I managed to get through," said Melancon. "He picked them up right away, as soon as I tapped him with my stick."

The win was the first Super Derby victory for Melancon, as well as Barnett, a three-time leading trainer at Louisiana Downs who is now based in Kentucky.

"We headquartered here at Louisiana Downs for about 15 years, and it's so great to come back and win this race for Russ and Shelda," said Barnett.

Barnett was a longtime trainer for the late John Franks, an Eclipse Award-winning owner who was based in Louisiana.

Fantasticat came into the Super Derby off a second-place finish in the $60,000 Prelude Stakes at Louisiana Downs. He was beaten a neck, and Melancon said his whip broke during that race. Before the Prelude, Fantasticat was a late-running fifth in the Grade 3 West Virginia Derby.

Fantasticat earned $300,000 for his Super Derby win, the third of his career and first in a stakes. His earnings now stand at $423,584. Fantasticat, who has made 15 career starts, is a son of Storm Cat and the Alydar mare Lotta Dancing, who was a Grade 3 winner of more than $350,000.

Imperialism was a slight favorite over Borrego in his first start since finishing fifth in the Preakness on May 15.

"The horse was very happy, but it was just a very tiring and sticky racetrack," said Kent Desormeaux, who rode Imperialism. "He gave a great effort on the return. He'd been on the shelf a long time, and the sticky ground took its toll. But, he's no worse for the wear. He's fit and it's on to win the next three."

Imperialism is being pointed for the Strub series at Santa Anita.

Next race plans for Fantasticat are yet to be determined, said Russ Sherrod.

Handle on the 13-race Super Derby card was $5,899,655, with $840,330 of that amount bet on track. Attendance figures are not available because Louisiana Downs also operates a casino ontrack and admission is free.

* Merry Me In Spring ($6.20) overtook Outright Buck on the wire to win the $100,000 Marie P. DeBartolo Breeders' Cup Oaks by a head. It was a nose back in third to Key To The Cat. Merry Me In Spring settled several lengths off of clear pacestter Time For Etbauer, then started her bid going into the second turn. The eventual winner exploded into the stretch, and went on to cover the mile and a sixteenth over yielding turf in 1:45.24. Kent Desormeaux rode the winner for Derby Fever Stables and trainer Sam David, Jr.

* Social King($21) turned the tables on Alpha Capo with a neck win in the $50,000 Donnie Wilhite Memorial. The last time the two met, Alpha Capo was a head winner over Social King in the $50,000 Bossier City Handicap. Social King rallied through the stretch, covering the mile and a sixteenth over yielding turf in 1:45.32. E.J. Perrodin rode the winner for trainer Dallas Keen.

* Perrodin picked up his second stakes win on the card when he guided Major League($14) to a two and three quarter length win over Zarb's Music Man in the $75,000 Harrah's Juvenile, which was run over yielding turf. Paul Murphy trains Major League for Major League Partnership.