06/28/2005 11:00PM

Look who's favored - Miriam L.


BOSSIER CITY, La. - Miriam L., upset winner of the $100,000 Sarah Lane's Oates Stakes at Fair Grounds this spring and a close second here in the Chapel Belle Stakes in her most recent start, will likely find herself in the unusual role of favorite in Friday's optional-claiming feature at Louisiana Downs.

Trained by James Hodges, Miriam L. will square off against seven other Louisiana-bred fillies and mares at a mile on the turf.

In the Chapel Belle, at a mile on turf for open company, Miriam L. was prominent throughout at 6-1 on the board before being outkicked to the wire by the talented Victory Lap. Miriam L. has made remarkable progress for Hodges this season, beginning the year as a maiden claimer and winning for a $25,000 claiming tag at Fair Grounds in January. Next came a crucial move to the grass and won the Sarah Lane's Oates at 30-1.

, 3, will face older company for the first time on Friday, but she has answered challenges previously. Carlos Gonzalez, aboard for the narrow loss last time, will again be in the saddle.

, the winner of her last two on the grass, appears to be Miriam L.'s main threat. G. I. Jana had her mini-streak halted on May 29, when the upper-level claimer she was in was moved from turf to the main track because of rain. With little chance of rain on Friday, G. I. Jana should bounce back with a return to her favorite surface.

Crowned King returns home

The turf course was given a break last week for routine maintenance, but there will be plenty of action on the grass during the Fourth of July holiday weekend. Highlighting the holiday program is the Independence Handicap on the turf on Monday.

Crowned King, a two-time stakes winner at the meeting, including a victory in the Alliance on grass, will wheel back in 16 days, following an eighth-place finish in the Dallas Turf Cup at Lone Star on June 18.

"He just didn't care for the footing over there this trip," said Crowned King's trainer, Billy McKeever.

McKeever isn't concerned about Crowned King running Monday on short rest.

"He just went around there, so I don't think the race took too much out of him," he said. "We will just gallop him up to the Independence and see what happens."

Among horses expected to join Crowned King in the Independence Handicap are Northern Scene, Tromp, and Zydeco Affair, according the racing office.