08/09/2002 12:00AM

Mighty Merlin to get tested in Pioneer

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Mighty Merlin, who rolled to an 11 1/4-length win in his only race, will likely be favored Sunday in the $40,000 Pioneer at Louisiana Downs in Bossier City, La.

The six-furlong race for 2-year-olds drew eight others, including Father Martin, commanding winner of the $52,000 consolation for the Texas Stallion Stakes in his last start, and Calder Race Course shipper Comic Truth.

Mighty Merlin did everything right July 11 at Louisiana Downs. He broke sharply in a full field and led throughout to win the five-furlong race for statebreds in a sharp 58.60 seconds under Jamie Theriot.

"Jamie said he did it easy," said Keith Bourgeois, who trains Mighty Merlin.

Bourgeois has put two four-furlong maintenance works into Mighty Merlin since his debut, and likes how the colt has handled himself mentally following the big maiden win.

"He's been laid back," the trainer said. "You've got to wake him up to get him up. Most good horses are that way around the barn. They rest. At least that's what I've found. They save their energy for the race."

Mighty Merlin, a son of Zuppardo's Prince, will break from post 4. His chief threat appears to be Father Martin, who will be one gate over in post 5.

Father Martin, like Mighty Merlin, used front-running tactics to win his maiden in his last start, romping by

7 1/2 at Lone Star Park on June 29. Trained by Steve Asmussen, he will be ridden by Tim Doocy.

o Also on the card Sunday is the $174,458 Louisiana Quarter Horse Breeders' Association Futurity. The 350-yard race matches Jess Maid Magic, the fastest qualifier, who is unbeaten in two career starts, and Jess Me Yall, a stakes winner who is 4 for 5. Both horses are by Mr Jess Perry, who is the sire of five of the 10 starters Sunday.