06/09/2009 12:00AM

Lovell enjoying 'crazy-great' start at Louisiana Downs


Trainer Michelle Lovell on Saturday will be balancing stakes starters at her home base of Louisiana Downs and her old stomping grounds of Calder Race Course. She is set to run Going to the Sun in the $100,000 Leave Me Alone at Calder and Gold Wonder in the $50,000 Barksdale at Louisiana Downs.

"It's going to be a real exciting weekend," she said.

Going to the Sun was a more than 12-length maiden special weight winner on the opening-day card at Louisiana Downs on May 15, getting a Beyer Speed Figure of 92. With the performance, she earned a shot at the Leave Me Alone, which is a six-furlong race for 3-year-old fillies.

"It's a prep for the Summit of Speed, and, of course, we're hoping we run well enough to go back," Lovell said of the series of graded sprints at Calder on July 11.

Lovell spent a number of years race-riding in south Florida as Michelle Hanley. She was the leading apprentice at Gulfstream Park in 1990 and last competed in the state in 1994. Upon her retirement, Lovell turned to training and was based in Texas for a number of years before moving her stable to Louisiana Downs in 2008.

She has remained in Louisiana since. She was based at Fair Grounds for the first time this past winter and now has returned to Bossier City, where she is in the midst of a dream season. Lovell has won 6 races from 13 starters, to rank third in the standings to leader Charles Hukill.

"It's been crazy-great," Lovell said of the meet at which she is winning with 46 percent of her starters.

And that's without running the most accomplished horse in the barn. Gold Wonder has yet to start at Louisiana Downs but is on schedule for the Barksdale, a 7 1/2-furlong turf race. He could go favored based on his recent form. He won the $60,000 Allen LaCombe Memorial at Fair Grounds on March 7 and an allowance at Evangeline Downs in his last start May 20.

John Jacinto was aboard for both wins and is scheduled to ride Gold Wonder in the Barksdale. The horse is one of 26 that Lovell has at Louisiana Downs. Other stakes-quality runners in the barn include Time Well Spent, a 14-length debut winner a year ago at Louisiana Downs who took a first-level allowance at the track in her last start May 31.

"It was time for her to win a race," Lovell said.

Time Well Spent had been knocking on the door since February, when she was a close second to Heart Ashley in a first-level allowance at Fair Grounds. Since that race, Heart Ashley has won two Grade 3 stakes, while Time Well Spent has run second in the $50,000 Rainbow Miss at Oaklawn and just missed in a first-level allowance at Evangeline before her win at Louisiana Downs. She will return to stakes competition in the future, Lovell said.

"We have a very competitive group of horses this year," she said.

Autobeacat gets a vacation

Autobeacat, whom the Louisiana Thoroughbred Breeders Association voted champion older male of 2008, won't see action this meet at Louisiana Downs. He came to hand there a year ago, rising from the $20,000 claiming ranks to stakes winner, then taking the $150,000 Louisiana Champions Day Classic at Fair Grounds in December.

Autobeacat has raced once since, finishing seventh in the $60,000 Dixie Poker Ace at Fair Grounds on Jan. 3.

"He injured himself in the Dixie Poker," said Eric Heitzmann, who trains Autobeacat.

Heitzmann said he has been given time off until the fall. He declined to reveal the nature of the injury, but expects Autobeacat to return to the barn late in the meet at Louisiana Downs.

"It's nothing serious," Heitzmann said. "It's just going to take a little bit of time. Plus, the fact that he had a hard year last year, we're giving him some time off. He's getting some well deserved R and R."

Heitzmann was thrilled with the championship season Autobeacat put together. In addition to winning a $20,000 claimer, $50,000 optional claimer, and allowance at Louisiana Downs, he was second in the track's $100,000 Shiskabob and $150,000 Tiznow. He topped it off with a three-quarter-length win in the Champions Day Classic.

"He got good and got some confidence in himself," Heitzmann said.

Autobeacat, who was honored for his season Saturday night at Evangeline, is owned by Valene Farms.

Heitzmann has several promising 2-year-olds at Louisiana Downs, including a Gilded Time colt named Dynamic Time for Vinery and Island Stream, a Valene Farms-bred filly who is a half-sister to multiple stakes winner Sammie Sam.

Superior Storm named horse of the year

Superior Storm was named 2008 horse of the year by the Louisiana Thoroughbred Breeders Association. She won 6 of 8 starts last year and was cited for becoming the first horse to win a stakes on each of the state's Louisiana-bred championship cards in a single year, taking races at Delta, Evangeline, Louisiana Downs, and Fair Grounds. Rick Jackson trains Superior Storm for Jac Mac Stables.

* The 9-year-old Zarb's Dahar, a top sprinter for years in Louisiana, heads a $20,000 optional claimer at six furlongs that tops the Thursday card. He was sixth in a $30,000 optional claimer last month at Louisiana Downs in what was his first out since October. The horse to beat Thursday is Southern Style.