06/12/2006 11:00PM

Happy Ticket gets red-hot Leparoux


BOSSIER CITY, La. - Julien Leparoux, North America's leading rider by wins, will team with the Louisiana Downs-based Happy Ticket on Saturday in the Grade 2, $300,000 Fleur de Lis at Churchill Downs.

"He's the leading jock over there, and he's hot," said Andrew Leggio Jr., who trains Happy Ticket for Stewart Madison. "When guys are hot, they're hot."

Leparoux, an apprentice, has won 234 races this year. Happy Ticket shipped out of Louisiana on Sunday night, and arrived at Churchill, in Louisville, Ky., on Monday morning. She was scheduled to gallop there Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, said Leggio, who traveled to Kentucky on Tuesday.

Happy Ticket put in her final work for the Fleur de Lis on Saturday, breezing a half-mile in 52 seconds. She last raced on April 8, finishing second by a neck in the Grade 1, $500,000 Apple Blossom at Oaklawn.

Two good-looking first-timers

There were two impressive efforts by first-time starters over the weekend. In last Saturday's fourth race, a maiden special weight sprint at six furlongs, Louisborg, a Victory Gallop colt trained by Tony Richey, spotted his seven rivals several lengths by hesitating at the start. Trailing by more than a dozen lengths turning for home, Louisborg ($24) was steered to the far outside by Lonnie Meche and closed with a rush to be up in time.

Sunday's seventh race was won in similar fashion by first-timer Stormy Light ($9), who was also ridden by Meche. He too remained in the gate following the start and when he did finally get under way, appeared impossibly far back in the early going. A son of Mystery Storm, Stormy Light finished with a flourish down the center of the track to win going away.

* Twins Lonnie and Donnie Meche continue their comebacks from substance and disciplinary suspensions. Both have been steady during the early part of the meeting. Lonnie is coming off a big week and is third in the rider standings with

18 wins. Donnie is not far behind with 14 winners. Throw in younger

brother Cody and the Meche clan holds down three of the top seven positions.

* Deuces were wild at Louisiana Downs last Friday. The first four winners on the afternoon all wore the number two. First race winner Groovy Jet ($2.60) and second race victor Forty Smiles ($2.60) were each trained by Morris Nicks and combined for a paltry daily double payoff of $3.80. That figure is believed to be the lowest in the 32-year history of this track.

* While he didn't saddle back-to-back winners, trainer C.L. Nix did the next best thing in Sunday's sixth race when he sent out the first- and second-place finishers. Oso Gothic ($6.40) overcame a poor start to rally past entrymate Wahtowah in the late going to prevail by three-quarters of a length. Nix not only trains both but also owns and was the breeder of the 5- and 6-year-old full sisters who are by Gothic Revival out of the Smokey Oso mare Oso Gal.

- Thursday's program features a third-level allowance sprint for fillies and mares. Elliecat, a 3-year-old Crafty Prospector filly trained by Cole Norman, will go for her third win in a row following a pair of recent allowance victories at Lone Star Park as the odds-on favorite. She will face five rivals in the six-furlong race.

- additional reporting by Mary Rampellini