02/05/2005 12:00AM

Major stables ship in


NEW ORLEANS - The biggest change Churchill Downs made when it purchased Fair Grounds was to rearrange the stakes schedule to cluster some of this track's biggest races together in order to attract multiple entrants from top stables in Florida and California. Nominations for the four stakes on Saturday's Louisiana Derby Preview Day indicate that the plan is working.

Trainer Jeff Mullins is bringing Buzzard's Bay in from the West Coast for the Grade 3 Risen Star - the key Louisiana Derby prep - and he's bringing along his good turf sprinter, Mighty Beau, to run in the Taylor's Special on the undercard.

Trainer Nick Zito nominated both Chief Commander and Electric Light to the Risen Star, and while he was at it, nominated Quest and Wanderin' Boy to the Grade 3 Mineshaft Handicap, the 1 1/16-mile route for older horses. One of Zito's pair in each race are expected to make the trip.

Trainer Todd Pletcher is bringing the undefeated Harlington to the Risen Star, along with Two Step Kid for the Taylor's Special and Pollard's Vision for the Mineshaft.

The Risen Star drew 12 late nominations in addition to the 113 early bird nominees to the Louisiana Derby, who are automatically nominated to the Risen Star as well.

"We expect 12 to 14 entries at Wednesday's draw," said racing secretary Ben Huffman of the Risen Star. "If we have more than 12, earnings will determine eligibility."

* Happy at Last will make her American debut Monday in the feature race at Fair Grounds, a $30,000 entry-level allowance at a mile on the grass for fillies and mares.

A British-bred daughter of In the Wings, Happy at Last did all her racing at 2 and 3 in Ireland. She has been training evenly for Andrew McKeever with measured, four- and five-furlong, stamina-building breezes on the Fair Grounds main track. She won her first career start, so there's no reason to think she won't return strong after being off since August.

The Mark Frostad-trained Ralla is the most accomplished turf runner in the field, winning three times on the grass in 10 starts.