05/16/2008 11:00PM

Louisiana Downs opens with 6 stakes


BOSSIER CITY, La. – Superior Storm stalked the early pace under defending Louisiana Downs riding champion John Jacinto before taking over in the stretch to win Saturday’s Fantasia Stakes, the first of six $50,000 stakes restricted to Louisiana-breds on the opening day program.

Trained by Richard Jackson, Superior Storm ($5.60) won for the fifth time from nine starts, and the 3-year-old daughter of Stormy Atlantic covered the six furlongs over a fast track in 1:11.70.

In the Powder Doll, for filly and mare sprinters, Coach Mike ($10.20) also came from just off the pace to take command, then held longshot Anything But Quiet safe in the waning strides. The Tony Richey charge was ridden by Diego Saenz and picked up her second stakes win of the year and fifth victory overall. The time for the 6 1/2 furlongs was 1:17.27.

Bluehard lead every step of the way in the Free Spirit’s Joy for 3-year-olds at six furlongs in an impressive effort. Setting fractions of 21.99 and 45.04 under Colby Hernandez, Bluehard ($12.40) put 7-5 favorite Cush away with a furlong remaining and drew clear, stopping the timer in 1:09.97.

The afternoon’s first turf race, the Seven Stars for fillies and mares, went to Tortuga Flats ($6.40), who rated kindly for jockey Kirk LeBlanc before taking command down the straight to improve her record over the local turf course to seven wins from just eight starts. She is trained by Ralph Irwin and now has 13 career victories from 21 starts and earnings of over $438,000.

The battle of older sprinters in the Big Earl went to John Charles ($9.40), who set all the pace with Gerard Melancon aboard. The 4-year-old son of Belek won for the sixth time in eight starts and accounted for his second stakes victory. He won the Need for Speed Stakes at Evangeline Downs two weeks ago. He is trained by Sam Breaux and covered the 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:04.18.

The day’s final event, the John Franks Memorial on the turf, provided the most exciting finish of the afternoon as Desert Wheat ($7.80) staged a furious late rally to nip Wildrally at the wire. Bill Mott trains the winner, who also won a stakes here last season. Francisco Torres rode, and the time for the mile was 1:38.83 over a course rated as good.