12/11/2004 12:00AM

Happy Ticket finds way to win

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Louis Hodges Jr.
Happy Ticket, Lonnie Meche up, wins the Louisiana Champions Day Ladies after escaping traffic.

NEW ORLEANS - Happy Ticket's reputation as Louisiana's new superhorse was validated Saturday with a smashing four-length victory over Destiny Calls in the $100,000 .

The Ladies topped the undercard on Louisiana Champions Day, which consisted of 10 stakes for statebreds.

Happy Ticket showed another dimension in her victory over the toughest competition she has ever faced by squeezing through a small opening along the rail in the stretch to run her undefeated record to seven straight races.

"She was like a cat," said jockey Lonnie Meche, who rode Happy Ticket, the 1-5 favorite, for trainer Andrew Leggio Jr. and owner Stewart Madison. "You give 'em a crack and they're gonna get out."

The race set up as a duel between Destiny Calls, who had won six straight races, and Happy Ticket. Jockey Robby Albarado, aboard Destiny Calls, made the first move, sending her to the lead through a 23.88-second quarter-mile while Meche settled Happy Ticket along the rail in third, just to the inside of Legs O'Neal under jockey Corey Lanerie. Destiny Calls cut a 48.23-second half-mile with Legs O'Neal pressing and Happy Ticket skimming the rail just behind the top two. On the far turn the top two wedged Happy Ticket in even tighter as Destiny Calls dictated the six furlongs in 1:13.28.

"She was blocked the whole way around," said Leggio. "She almost went down around the turn."

Albarado swung out of the turn for the drive on Destiny Calls and pulled out to a clear lead, inviting Meche to send Happy Ticket into the hole along the rail. When Meche committed, Albarado tightened it up again, but the small opportunity was all Happy Ticket needed.

"It was just a matter of getting her some racing room," said Meche. "She went right on through. She had great acceleration."

Once clear, Happy Ticket extended her lead through the stretch, getting the 1 1/16 miles in 1:45.29. Destiny Calls held on gamely to finish second, a nose ahead of Legs O'Neal.

Destiny Call's connections knew they had been beaten by a champion.

"Meche just had too much horse," said trainer Gary Palmisano.

"The winner, she's special," added Albarado.

"The race went just like I thought it would," said Leggio. "We wanted Destiny Calls to go to the lead, and we figured Legs O'Neal would press the pace. They did their best to stop her from winning but they weren't going to stop her."

Juvenile: Crimson Stag rolls by statebreds

Crimson Stag cruised to a 3 1/2-length victory Saturday in the $100,000 , his first race against Louisiana-breds after running exclusively in open company. Ridden with supreme confidence by Albarado, Crimson Stag stalked pacesetter Robbeau, who cut fractions of 22.61 and 46.48 seconds to the top of the stretch. St. Roch made a move toward the front turning for home just inside of Crimson Stag, exchanged bumps and faltered as the winner rushed past en route to a time of 1:10.76 for the six furlongs. Robbeau ran on stubbornly for second, 1 3/4 lengths ahead of St. Roch. St. Roch's jockey, Tracy Hebert, claimed foul against the winner but the stewards let the result stand.

"I honestly didn't think I interfered with him," said Albarado. "We went by him pretty fast."

Albarado was very impressed with Crimson Stag, who won his maiden race at Saratoga.

"Any time you win at Saratoga in open company," said Albarado, "there's something special there."

Turf: Mr. Sulu wins going away

Mr. Sulu justified his 4-5 favoritism with an easy score in the $100,000 .

Albarado was content to settle the winner toward the rear down the backstretch, then began to pick his way through the field and waited for an opening behind a wall of horses at the head of the stretch.

Mr. Sulu quickly accelerated to the front, had the lead by the eighth pole, and widened his margin to the wire to beat Little Happy by 3 1/2 lengths, running 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.86.

Sprint: Archeval posts upset

Archeval, a 32-1 longshot, took over the lead from the outside going down the backstretch and never looked back to win the $100,000 over Lac Laronge by three-quarters of a length, getting the six furlongs in 1:10.63.

The odds-on favorite, Zarb's Dahar, was a well-beaten fourth.

Donnie Meche rode Archeval ($67.20) for trainer Todd Meachum.

Lassie: Equestrian Girls hangs on

Equestrian Girls won the $100,000 for 2-year-old fillies despite bearing out dramatically in the final furlong.

Equestrian Girls ($8) beat Indigo Girl by 2 3/4 lengths, getting the six furlongs in 1:11.78. Sweet Macaroni was third

Quarter Horse Derby: Val's Fortune breaks record

Val's Fortune continued his total domination of Louisiana-bred Quarter Horses with a track record performance in the $100,000 Louisiana Champions Quarter Horse Derby, breaking the track record of 19.72 seconds for 400 yards by running the distance in 19.66 seconds, beating Cool Eleanor by 2 1/2 lengths.

Val's Fortune, who is now 16 for 18 lifetime with two seconds, also owns the track record at 300 yards (15.64 seconds) and 350 yards (17.28 seconds). A son of Dashing Val, Val's Fortune ($2.60) broke straight out of the gate and was ridden out to run his bankroll to $957,915.

Starter Handicap: Setemup Joe best

Setemup Joe ($12.40) bounded through the stretch to win the $50,000 Champions Day Starter Handicap by 1 1/2 lengths over Cat Ante. Setemup Joe, ridden by Lonnie Meche, covered the 1 1/16 miles in 1:45.86.