03/03/2005 1:00AM

Mr. Sulu back with statebreds


NEW ORLEANS - Hard-hitting turf specialist Mr. Sulu has competed against some of the best grass horses on the grounds this Fair Grounds meet and returns to face Louisiana-breds Saturday in the $75,000 Dixie Poker Ace at 7 1/2 furlongs on the Fair Grounds grass course.

An impressive winner of the Louisiana Champions Day Turf last December, Mr. Sulu missed this race last year because of a training accident.

"He was run into by a loose horse on the track about a week before the race," said trainer Josie Carroll. "He lost his jockey and ran off of the track, then fell on the concrete. He wasn't seriously injured, but he was very shaken up and developed a hematoma on one of his ribs, so we couldn't run him."

followed his Turf victory with strong performances against open company, losing to America Alive and Warleigh. The return to restricted conditions should restore his winning ways, and he will carry high weight of 122 pounds.

"He's in good order," said Carroll. "He really likes the course here, and he's back in against Louisiana-breds. I've only given him one work, but he tries so hard when he's jogging he gets plenty out of it."

Among the 11 rivals Mr. Sulu will face is Spritely Walker, winner of the 2003 Champions Day Classic. Out of Knightly Spritely, Spritely Walker will be making his first start on grass, but trainer Steve Asmussen said he thinks the colt should handle the surface.

"We thought of entering this race last year," said Asmussen. "His family had a lot of luck on the turf. His mare had a lot of success on grass."

Lac Laronge is another formidable presence in the race. After finishing second in the Champions Day Sprint, Lac Laronge reeled off three consecutive victories, beating open company on the grass.

Bebe Garcon won last year's renewal of the Dixie Poker Ace but has not won a race since. She finished second in an allowance turf race at this distance in January and is getting six pounds from Mr. Sulu. Spruce's Prince has also won a restricted stakes race.

Little Happy, a winner of 4 of his 12 turf starts, finished second to Mr. Sulu in the Champions Day Turf. Champions Day Classic winner Witt Ante has placed in two turf stakes but has not won on the grass in three starts. Screen Idol beat Witt Ante last October in the Shiskabob on grass at Louisiana Downs.