08/16/2001 12:00AM

Louisiana Downs: Pioneer


Nuclear Assembly, whose lone career defeat came when he finished second as the favorite in last month's $100,000 Middleground at Lone Star, returns Saturday in the $40,000 Pioneer Stakes at Louisiana Downs in Bossier City, La.

The Pioneer, a 5 1/2-furlong race that drew a field of seven, is the first of several local 2-year-old stakes trainer Brent Davidson has planned for Nuclear Assembly, whose season finale is to come in the $100,000 estimated Friendship here on Nov. 10.

Nuclear Assembly won the first three starts of his career, including the $150,000 Texas Thoroughbred Association Sales Futurity, before he was beaten by 1 3/4 lengths in the Middleground on July 25.

Nuclear Assembly set a torrid pace in the Middleground, and it was costly, said Davidson. "I think the fractions is what got us beat," he said. "When you're going 43 and change, it's hard to finish. He ran a good race, but he didn't have as much left at the end. We gave him a week off after that race. It always helps a horse, especially as hard as this horse runs."

Glen Murphy has the mount in the Pioneer.

Carlos Gonzalez has the mount on Tricky Storm, the first of four stakes starters around the country that trainer Cole Norman will send out Saturday. Norman's stakes starters continue with Royal Spy in the Grade 1 Secretariat at Arlington, Joyful Tune in the $25,000 Alamo at Retama, and Unrullah Bull in the $75,000 Evangeline Downs Mile.