12/06/2007 12:00AM

Ladies second to none

EmailIt's not unusual for the Champions Day Ladies to come out a cut below the best races on the Louisiana Champions Day card at Fair Grounds, outshone by the Sprint, Turf, and Classic. Not this year. While only seven horses were entered in the $100,000 Ladies, the race has more quality at the top than any of the eight Thoroughbred stakes on Saturday's 11-race Champions Day card.

Three-year-olds Tensas Yucatan and Ahead of her Time took turns beating each other this summer at Louisiana Downs, and both are unusually talented Louisiana-breds. Raspberry Wine, a 5-year-old mainstay in the division, exits a strong second-place finish to Turf favorite Desert Wheat on opening day at Fair Grounds. And all Madison's Music has done is win 5 of her 6 starts during 2007.

"The race came up tough," Madison's Music's trainer, Keith Bourgeois, succinctly explained of the 1 1/16-mile main-track race.

Ahead of her Time may be the toughest of all - on dirt, at least. Ahead of her Time won her first five starts, all on the main track, including a half-length win over Tensas Yucatan in the Louisiana Breeders' Oaks. On turf, Tensas Yucatan may be the better horse, with wins over Ahead of her Time in two Louisiana Downs stakes races.

Ahead of her Time will be making her first start since owner Bill Heiligbrodt purchased her privately and turned her over to trainer Steve Asmussen. Asmussen has kept Ahead of her Time on a strong work pattern, preparing her for her first start since Sept. 22.

Tensas Yucatan faded after setting a fast pace Nov. 10 in the Grade 2 Mrs. Revere at Churchill Downs. She may concede the early lead to Madison's Music, who finished a distant sixth as the 4-5 favorite in a Nov. 17 stakes at Delta Downs.

"She was in heat, and I guess that had to be it," trainer Keith Bourgeois said. "If she goes back to her form from before, I like her."

Turf: Desert Wheat safe at home

Take Desert Wheat out of Louisiana, and he can't seem to win. Put him in a Louisiana-bred turf stakes, and he can't seem to lose, and Desert Wheat will be favored to take another such race in the $100,000 Turf.

Desert Wheat used to have to ship to Louisiana to take advantage of the statebred program here, but now trainer Bill Mott runs a Fair Grounds string, and Desert Wheat can run right out of his own stall. He already has a win over the course this meet, taking an allowance prep for the Turf on opening day by more than two lengths.

Still, Desert Wheat, a deep closer, had more pace at which to run that day than he might find on Saturday, and the lightly raced Wildrally, who finished third in the allowance race, might be ready to close the gap. Wildrally has improved steadily through his 3-year-old season, and turned in a sharp half-mile dirt work prepping for his start in the Turf.

Sprint: Wide-open contest

The $100,000 Sprint turned messy long before the race was to start. The race was oversubscribed, with starting positions determined by 2007 earnings, and Killing Me was accidentally let into the field, and Storm Heat - who had earned about $1,000 more this year - accidentally excluded. Racing officials have decided that Killing Me will be scratched, and Storm Heat allowed in, but will run for purse money only, and break from post 14.

Onetime Sprint kingpin Zarb's Dahar appears at age 7 to have lost a step or two, and the division may be open to a less accomplished horse like Fass Feat, Nowandforevermore, or Captain Buddy.

Fass Feat has won one stakes race and placed in three others, and has turned in strong workouts for his first start since Aug. 11. Nowandforevermore hasn't raced since last March, but he also has worked well for his comeback, and the layoff might be a good thing. His best race of 2006 came in his first start back from a layoff.

Juvenile: Star Guitar looks strong

If Star Guitar can run back to his debut win on Nov. 22 at Fair Grounds, he should capture the $100,000 Juvenile. The break between races is short, but Star Guitar turned in a solid work last Sunday, trainer Al Stall said, and is coming into the six-furlong Juvenile in good shape.

"He's big, and he's strong, and he's sound so far, knock on wood," Stall said.

Star Guitar cedes experience to stakes winner Pantara Phantom, but where that horse developed early, Star Guitar - a Quiet American colt - might be a horse of more substance.

* Trainer Pat Mouton has surrounded the $100,000 Ladies Sprint, with Carl's Frosty Girl and Ida Maria - the one-two finishers in the race last year - and Leesa Lee. But the Mouton trio might have to deal with Calmed, an interesting longshot.

* Claudia Bertha looms a short-priced, tough-to-beat favorite in the $100,000 Juvenile Fillies. The $50,000 Starter looks wide open.