09/12/2005 11:00PM

Hodges enters Festival with hot hand


Trainer James Hodges has won with 31 percent of his starters this meet at Louisiana Downs, and on Saturday plans to start four horses in three of the 13 restricted stakes that will make up the track's $1 million Breeders' Festival.

Hodges has top Louisiana-bred sprinter Zarb's Dahar for the $75,000 Cajun; the streaking Chip Hunter and the stakes-placed Little Happy for the $100,000 Shiskabob; and Miriam L for the $100,000 Louisiana Breeders' Oaks.

Zarb's Dahar has won 8 of 9 starts at Louisiana Downs, and his local success can be attributed to a number of factors, including a gate crew that knows Zarb's Dahar well, said Hodges.

"When he goes into the gate you've got to take his head and kind of put it across the bar that separates the two stalls," said Hodges. "If you don't, he will get his head down, and if he gets his head down, you can hardly get it up . . . and then the next thing you know, he gets left."

So before his races, Zarb's Dahar rests his head across the bar until the field is loaded. When it is time to get set for the start, his head is straightened for the break.

Zarb's Dahar won all six of his Louisiana Downs starts last year to be named co-horse of the meet with Happy Ticket, and so far this meet he has won the $50,000 Folklore against open company, as well as an allowance. For his win last out in the Folklore, Zarb's Dahar earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 100.

"He's really a nice racehorse," said Hodges. "He outran some good horses here the other day."

Hodges said not having to ship, as well as running over a favorite track, will serve Zarb's Dahar well on Saturday.

"He likes this racetrack," said Hodges. "It's a good track, and he can get a hold of it."

Gerard Melancon has the mount on Zarb's Dahar.

Chip Hunter, who is a son of Jade Hunter, has won his last three starts, including the $75,000 A.L. "Red" Erwin. To stay on turf, he will have to face older horses in the Shiskabob. The other route for him on the Breeders' Festival card is on dirt, the $100,000 Louisiana Breeders' Derby.

"His numbers are a lot better on the turf than they are on the dirt," said Hodges.

Little Happy will also be a nice fit in the Shiskabob, a race he was third in last year. Hodges's other starter on the card, Miriam L, won the $100,000 Sarah Lane's Oates this past spring at Fair Grounds.

Hodges has won with a remarkable 22 of 70 starters this meet to rank sixth in the standings at Louisiana Downs.

"It's just really been good," said Hodges.

The Breeders' Festival will likely be the first of two $1 million cards for Louisiana-breds in Bossier City this year. Because the Fair Grounds meet is expected to be moved here in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the annual $1 million Champions Day card is tentatively scheduled to be run Dec. 10 at Louisiana Downs. Approval from the Louisiana Racing Commission is still pending.

The Breeders' Festival purses were boosted from $880,000 to $1,075,000 in the last month, thanks to slots revenues at Louisiana Downs. The card will be the second richest of the meet behind Super Derby Day. There is a special first post of 1:10 p.m. Central on Saturday.

Voodoo Gold to Stardust

Voodoo Gold is considered one of the top 2-year-old Louisiana-breds in training, and on Saturday he will shoot for his third straight stakes win in the $75,000 Stardust. In his last two starts, Voodoo Gold has won both the John Franks Memorial Sales Stakes and the D.S. "Shine" Young Memorial Futurity at Evangeline Downs.

Cole Norman trains Voodoo Gold and will give the mount to Sylvester Carmouche Jr. Norman said his other starters during the Breeders' Festival will be Majestic Commander in the Cajun and Where is My Daddy in the $75,000 Victoria.

On Sunday, he has four horses for the $40,000 Speed at six furlongs at Louisiana Downs: Skin Flint, That Tat, Grand Bank, and Joe Six Pack.

* Shaky Town, who has won stakes in his last two starts, including the Evangeline Mile, will move to turf for his next start in the $125,000 Harrah's Louisiana Downs Breeders' Cup Handicap on Oct. 2, said Norman. He had been under consideration for the Grade 2 Kentucky Cup Classic.

* Rememberthecowgirl will attempt to win her fifth straight race Thursday in the third race, an optional claimer for fillies and mares on turf. Rememberthecowgirl has stepped up her game since moving to turf, and her last four wins have all come on the grass, between Louisiana Downs and Lone Star Park. Trainer Cody Autrey has given the mount to Lonnie Meche.

* Albert M. Stall III was born on Sept. 6 to trainer Al Stall Jr. and his wife, Nicole. Stall is tied for second in the trainer standings at Louisiana Downs.