05/25/2006 12:00AM

Louisiana Downs: Betnow the one to beat


Trainer Steve Asmussen and jockey Luis Quinonez have won at a 38-percent rate together in the last 1 1/2 years at Louisiana Downs. Saturday, they will team with Betnow in the track's featured seventh race, an optional claimer for horses bred in Louisiana.

The seven-furlong race is subbing as the feature after the scheduled stakes, the $50,000 Chapel Belle for 3-year-old fillies on turf, drew an insufficient number of entries Wednesday.

Betnow comes into the optional claimer off a second-place finish in a one-mile allowance at Evangeline Downs on March 15. He has worked well since then, including a three-furlong work in 36.80 seconds last week at Louisiana Downs.

Betnow, who has a strong closing kick, owns the highest last-out Beyer Speed Figure in Saturday's field, a 79.

The chief threat could be Ponopaan, who last winter won the $50,000 Starter on the Louisiana Champions Day program at the Fair Grounds meet at Louisiana Downs. He encountered some trouble last out when third in a $30,000 claiming race. Trainer Cole Norman has given the mount to Carlos Gonzalez.

* Bubba's Quest, a 5-year-old half-brother to April's Lucky Boy, will make his career debut in the second, a competitive maiden special weight over six furlongs.