12/20/2005 12:00AM

Happy Ticket gets solid breeze

Happy Ticket is back after surgery to correct a breathing problem.

Happy Ticket took another step on her road back to the races, breezing for the first time since she had surgery to repair a breathing problem that stopped her cold in the Breeders' Cup Distaff.

Happy Ticket worked Sunday at Louisiana Downs, going three furlongs in 36.60 seconds, and though Happy Ticket was just cruising, her work was the third-fastest among 18 at the distance.

"It was an easy blowout for her," said Andy Leggio, who trains Happy Ticket for owner Stewart Madison.

Some fillies would be overeager in their first work after a break, but Happy Ticket had no such anxiety.

"She's a laid-back filly," Leggio said. "Nothing really bothers her."

The Louisiana-bred Happy Ticket won nine races to start her career, suffering her first loss when Madcap Escapade beat her this past summer at Calder. After winning a Grade 1 at Saratoga and finishing a troubled second in her Breeders' Cup prep in New York, Happy Ticket was among the favorites for the Distaff, but she flopped, coming home 11th of 13. The breathing problem was diagnosed shortly thereafter, Happy Ticket went to Kentucky for surgery, and she made her way back to Leggio's barn in early November.

Happy Ticket had lost about 100 pounds when she arrived, Leggio guesses, but she has put the weight back on even as her exercise regimen has intensified. After walking the shed row for 30 days, Happy Ticket began jogging, then galloping, and with her daily gallops up to 1 1/2 miles, Leggio decided it was time to breeze.

But whether the surgical procedure succeeded or not can't fully be known until Happy Ticket races again.

"You don't know how it'll affect them until you stress them," said Leggio.

That time might come Jan. 22 in the Louisiana Lagniappe Ladies, a 1 1/16-mile dirt race restricted to Louisiana-breds. "We're going to try to run in that race, but we won't break our neck to get there," Leggio said.

The target sets up a potential showdown with The Beter Man Can, who has dominated her competition in a pair of wins this meet. The Beter Man Can won the Louisiana Champions Day Distaff by almost six lengths and earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 102.

Imported and domestic stakes talent

The trainer Jeff Trosclair just inherited one stakes horse. He has been bringing another along on his own.

Trosclair saddled Fort Prado to a tough-luck second Sunday in the Colonel E.R. Bradley Handicap. Fort Prado raced from the back of the field as Onthedeanslist grabbed an easy lead and set a dawdling pace. Fort Prado made his run at the top of the stretch, but Onthedeanslist had a burst left, and opened up enough of a lead to hold clear Fort Prado by three-quarters of a length.

Chris Block trained Fort Prado in Chicago until he was sent to Trosclair earlier this month, and Block's family owns Fort Prado. Block winters in Chicago, and his turf horses who don't need a break have wound up in Louisiana the last several years. The Blocks previously had stabled them with trainer Richie Scherer, but Scherer isn't running a Louisiana string this year.

Block said Monday that Fort Prado would run back in the Jan. 21 Fair Grounds Breeders' Cup if all goes well. And so far it has.

"He was cooled out in 15 minutes after the race," Trosclair said. "He came back very good. Just jumped right into the feed tub."

Trosclair, meanwhile, is ready to get serious with Hyte Regency, his 2-year-old colt who finished third in the Kentucky Jockey Club on Nov. 26 at Churchill. Hyte Regency is being pointed toward the Risen Star Stakes on Jan. 14, and will have his first breeze since the KJC "in the next couple days," Trosclair said.

"I kind of let him down a little bit, but it's time to get going," Trosclair said. "We've done enough to keep him happy, some two-mile gallops. We'll have to map out a campaign, and this might be the last break he gets for some time."

Culinary may come right back

With Saturday's Truly Bound Handicap for older filly and mare route horses shaping up with a short field, trainer Mike Stidham is considering a quick return for Culinary, who won the off-the-turf Furl Sail Handicap by more than four lengths Saturday. It was the first stakes win for Culinary since the Arlington-Washington Lassie in the summer of 2004.

"She didn't seem to be tired," Stidham said Tuesday. "She went back to the track this morning, and she was coming out of her skin. She really went into the race good, ran really well, came out of it well, and when you think about that there's really nothing after this until Oaklawn, you consider it."