08/12/2011 5:24PM

Louisiana Downs: St. Tribute can earn Louisiana Cup start

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St. Tribute could advance to the rich Louisiana Cup program with the right kind of effort in the featured sixth race Sunday at Louisiana Downs. She will start as a top contender in the first-level allowance for fillies and mares at about 1 1/16 miles on turf. The race, which is one of three allowances on the card, could serve as St.  Tribute’s springboard to the $100,000 Louisiana Cup Distaff for statebred fillies and mares next Saturday.

“If she runs good, we’ll more than likely come back in the Cup,” said Alfonso Balderas, who trains St.  Tribute for her breeder, Ray Whitley.

St. Tribute was second in one of the Louisiana Cup races last year at Louisiana Downs. The series is for Louisiana-breds, with the card to feature eight stakes worth $570,000.

St. Tribute, who is a four-time winner over the local turf course, is moving back into the allowance ranks after finishing third by three-quarters of a length in a $10,000 claiming race at a mile. The added ground she picks up Sunday should be a benefit, said Balderas.

“This filly can run anywhere from a mile to a mile and a sixteenth,” he said. “Going further, she relaxes and finishes better. A race like seven and a half is too much pressure. She likes to run up close to the front end, or stalking the pace. She’s run two nice races [this meet]. E.J. Perrodin has been on her and he’s been a big asset for this filly. She relaxes a lot for him.”

Balderas said St. Tribute has long been a special member of his stable. She was orphaned at five days old when her dam, St. Sawasun, was struck by lightning at a farm in Louisiana.

“We had to raise her on the bottle,” said Balderas. “She’s special to the owner and she’s special to us. She’s been one of those special horses because of the way she had to come up.”

The chief threat Sunday could be Sera’s Tunnel, or the promising 3-year-old filly Meanerthanu.