06/17/2006 12:00AM

Happy Ticket back on track

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Happy Ticket (left) edges past Oonagh Maccool after a stretch-long battle to win the Grade 2 Fleur de Lis.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Following her two narrow defeats in the Azeri Breeders' Cup and Apple Blossom, some wondered if Happy Ticket had lost a step off her Grade 1-winning form of 2005.

Apparently not.

Saturday in the Grade 2, $321,900 at Churchill Downs, Happy Ticket returned to her winning ways, edging favored Oonagh Maccool by a head in the 1 1/8-mile race.

Breaking a step behind the rest of the field, Happy Ticket settled in third in the early stages of the Fleur de Lis - an off-the-pace position her trainer, Andy Leggio, had hoped she could obtain. There she remained for more than six furlongs of the race, as Oonagh Maccool shot to the lead, setting reasonable fractions of 47.62 seconds and 1:11.69 under pressure from longshot Character Builder.

The Fleur de Lis became the two-horse race the public expected in the stretch. Happy Ticket engaged Oonagh Maccool, poked her head in front with a sixteenth of a mile remaining, and maintained that advantage over the final sixteenth.

Oonagh Maccool tried to come back, but failed to gain in the closing yards. She finished 3 1/2 lengths in front of Character Builder, who was third. La Reason and Gallant Secret completed the order of finish.

Happy Ticket, a 5-year-old Louisiana-bred daughter of Anet, became a millionaire in winning the Fleur de Lis. She ran 1 1/8 miles under Julien Leparoux on a fast track in 1:49.23, paying $5 to win and $2.20 to place.

Oonagh Maccool, trained by Todd Pletcher, returned $2.10 to place. Show wagering was canceled following the scratch of Soul Search, which reduced the field to five.

In winning the Fleur de Lis, Happy Ticket reversed a trend of losing to Pletcher-trained females. Happy Ticket had run second to the Pletcher-trained Ashado and Spun Sugar in key matchups in the Grade 1 Beldame and Grade 1 Apple Blossom, respectively.

"We turned the tables today on Todd, and that's tough to do," said Happy Ticket's owner, Stewart Madison.

Madison said immediate plans for Happy Ticket are undecided. The ultimate goal is a return to Churchill Downs for the Breeders' Cup Distaff on Nov. 4, he said.