07/27/2004 12:00AM

Hodges's promising stable has rarely been off the mark


On average, trainer James E. Hodges has won with every other horse he has started this meet at Louisiana Downs. His 13-for-26 record places him sixth in the standings through Tuesday, and his 50 percent win rate is the highest among the top 10 trainers in Bossier City, La.

Hodges first came to Louisiana Downs in 1989, when he switched over to training Thoroughbreds after spending 15 years with Quarter Horses. He is in the midst of his best meet at the track.

"This is one of the biggest stables I've ever had here," said Hodges, 67.

Hodges has 20 horses on the grounds and another 10 juveniles on a farm, being prepared for the races. The top horses in his barn include Zarb's Dahar, who has gone 3 for 3 this meet at Louisiana Downs.

Zarb's Dahar is being pointed for the $50,000 Cajun Sprint during the Louisiana Breeders' Festival on Oct. 23, as well as the major winter sprint stakes for Louisiana-breds at Fair Grounds and Delta Downs.

Zarb's Dahar races for Foxwood Plantation and fits the profile of the kind of horse Hodges races between his annual circuit of Louisiana Downs and Fair Grounds.

"We've got primarily Louisiana-breds," he said.

Another promising statebred in the barn is Catlaan, who won her maiden against males June 25 and came back July 15 to beat open fillies. In the long term, Hodges said Catlaan is a candidate for the $75,000 Louisiana Breeders' Oaks at Louisiana Downs on Oct. 23.

Another up-and-coming 3-year-old in the barn is Uncle Clip, who races for Stacey Moak. Uncle Clip won his maiden over six furlongs July 24.

"We've always been high on him," said Hodges. "I think he has a lot of potential. We're well pleased with him."

Hodges said the goal is to move Uncle Clip to two turns in the near future. He would like to see the colt develop into a candidate for the $75,000 Louisiana Breeders' Derby on Oct. 23.

Hodges's horses have fired consistent races all meet. He has started 11 different horses so far this meet and won with nine of them, with multiple wins scored by Zarb's Dahar, Catlaan, and Colorful One.

On average, Hodges's winners have returned $9.

Purchase for charity pays off

Ready to Live, who won the $50,000 Rebel at Louisiana Downs on July 3, topped an auction this summer - but not the usual kind. A 5 percent interest in her was sold at a gala at Keeneland Race Course in June to support Central Kentucky Riding for the Handicapped.

Donated by Bongo Racing Stable, which races Ready to Live, the interest brought an auction-topping $6,500. Greg Johnson purchased the 5 percent and had immediate success with his first Thoroughbred when Ready to Live won the Rebel.

Ready to Live will likely make her next start on turf, said her trainer, Steve Asmussen. He wants to move her to the grass and is considering a future start in the $100,000 La Senorita Stakes for 2-year-old fillies at Retama Park on Sept. 4.

Asmussen said he believes Ready to Live will like two turns and turf.

"Attitude-wise and how she travels is very encouraging," he said.

Central Kentucky Riding for the Handicapped is a nonprofit organization based at the Kentucky Horse Park.

Akanti probable for Evangeline Mile

Akanti, who won the $50,000 Blue Skies Handicap on Sunday, will be pointed for the $100,000 Evangeline Mile Handicap at Evangeline Downs on Aug. 14, according to his trainer, Al Stall Jr.

The win in the Blue Skies was the third straight victory at the meet for Akanti, who won for a claiming price of $12,500 in May and captured an optional claimer in June before winning on Sunday.

* No Tolerance, whose last two races have been moved to dirt from turf because of rain, has proven capable over both surfaces and is a top contender in Thursday's featured ninth race. The event is a conditioned $40,000 claimer at 1 1/16 miles on turf, with a purse of $15,000. Gerard Melancon has the mount on No Tolerance for trainer Steve Wren.