08/03/2006 11:00PM

Heart Appeal sharp now

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BOSSIER CITY, La. - In these days of allowance and optional claiming races with conditions so complex that you might feel like calling your accountant or attorney, a simple allowance for nonwinners of three races can be refreshing. Traditionalists will be treated to two such races at Louisiana Downs on Sunday - race 7 at seven furlongs on the main track and race 8 for Louisiana-bred fillies and mares at a mile on the grass.

Heart Appeal, an impressive winner of a first-level allowance at Louisiana Downs on June 23, and most recently a runner-up in a second-level $35,000 optional claimer, rates as the one to beat in race 7.

Trained by Tom Howard, Heart Appeal joined the ranks of winners in the Rainbow Stakes at Oaklawn Park in April, defeating fellow Arkansas-breds, and has easily held his own since while racing in open company. Tracy Hebert will ride.

Zarb's Music Man, a winner in a first-level allowance race in his most recent start, will attempt to keep his record perfect at seven furlongs. Zarb's Music Man, 4, is trained by Rick Jackson and will be ridden by Luis Quinonez.

When the action moves to the grass for the eighth race, the public will likely embrace Smart Homebuilder as one of their favorites. Unplaced in stakes company in her most recent start, Smart Homebuilder is now in the barn of James "Sweet" Hodges as she attempts to regroup after having her two-race win streak snapped in the Elge Rasberry Stakes in mid-July. Lonnie Meche, aboard for Smart Homebuilder's last win, will return to the saddle.

Two riders near milestones

Hebert and Carlos Gonzalez each took a step toward career milestones on Thursday.

Gonzalez, leading the rider standings with 59 victories this meet going into Friday, won three races to begin the week and is was just three wins shy of 2,000 in his career.

Hebert won the fifth race on Thursday, moving to within four wins of 3,000.

* Lonnie Meche, whose brothers Donnie and Cody also ride here, had the biggest day of all on Thursday, however, as he had his picture taken in the winner's circle four times.