08/04/2006 12:00AM

Happy Ticket takes on speed out West


DEL MAR, Calif. - Happy Ticket is a millionaire Grade 1 winner who has won in five states, raced on 10 tracks, won on grass and dirt, short and long.

But can she surf in the Pacific Ocean?

A cool seaside climate and rich $300,000 purse has lured Happy Ticket, a Louisiana-based horse, to Del Mar for the Grade 2 on Sunday. After 12 wins from 17 starts, perhaps the main question facing Happy Ticket is whether she can cope with California speed at 1 1/16 miles.

"I know it's a little fast out here," trainer Andrew Leggio said Friday before Happy Ticket jogged on the Del Mar main track for the first time. "She can do whatever she needs to do. If she falls out there on the lead, they might have to catch her."

It is not likely. There is no shortage of speed in the six-runner Hirsch, which includes sprinter Maryfield, front-runner Healthy Addiction, presser Star Parade, and closer Hollywood Story. Somethinaboutlaura may scratch and run in a sprint Aug. 18.

Three other entrants are Grade 1 winners, but Happy Ticket is the star. She is owned and bred by Mississippi music-label executive Stewart Madison, who said Happy Ticket skipped the $250,000 Go for Wand at Saratoga last weekend and shipped to Del Mar "because of the weather, and the purse is a little higher."

Happy Ticket has earned $1,176,838, and a win Sunday would make her the all-time richest Louisiana-bred. She is $93,214 short of Scott's Scoundrel.

A bay mare with a white face, Happy Ticket has four second-place finishes to go with her 12 wins. Her only real blemish is a 30-length throw-out in the 2005 Breeders' Cup Distaff, where she entrapped her epiglottis. Her 2006 campaign has been geared toward another shot at the BC Distaff. She would have one more prep race after Sunday.

Hollywood Story, winner of the Grade 1 Vanity on July 2, also will have one more prep race before the Breeders' Cup. The only stretch-runner in the Hirsch, Hollywood Story has raced in 23 successive graded stakes after finishing second in her debut as a 2-year-old at Del Mar.

Star Parade was scratched at the gate of the Vanity when she kicked open the back stall doors. She missed a week of training afterward, but worked well since shipping to Del Mar. Star Parade finished 10 lengths behind Happy Ticket when they met April 8 at Oaklawn.