01/06/2006 12:00AM

Mr. Sulu in rematch with familiar foe


BOSSIER CITY, La. - Mr. Sulu has dominated the Louisiana-bred turf division at Fair Grounds in recent years, and the meeting's move north to Louisiana Downs this winter appears to have mattered little.

Last month , 8, successfully defended his title in the Louisiana Champions Day Turf to become the first horse to win that race three times. On Sunday, he will shoot for his third Dixie Poker Ace Stakes victory in the last four years. He will face five rivals in the one-mile turf race for statebreds.

The $75,000 Dixie Poker Ace features a rematch between Mr. Sulu and Spruce's Prince, whose three-race win streak was halted in the Champions Turf. Spruce's Prince set most of the pace that day before hooking up with Mr. Sulu in a spirited stretch duel. Only a half-length separated the two at the finish, and earned his fourth consecutive 89 Beyer Speed Figure. Spruce's Prince was the favorite that day but the roles likely will be reversed on Sunday. Robby Albarado has the return call on Mr. Sulu, while Calvin Borel will ride Spruce's Prince for the first time.

Leading trainer Steve Asmussen will send out the entry of Betnow and Spritely Walker. Betnow, 4, faced open company and older rivals in an optional claiming race in his last start on Dec. 15. Originally scheduled for the grass, that race was was moved to the main track, and Betnow produced a modest rally to finish third, 4 1/2 lengths behind the winner, Kiss the Groom, who was entered to run in Saturday's $75,000 Lucky Dog Stakes at Evangeline Downs.

Betnow has 2 wins from 6 starts on the grass - and with a forecast for dry weather, he apparently will be returning to his favorite surface. Roman Chapa will ride.

, third in the Dixie Poker Ace a year ago, also was in an off-the-turf race the last time he ran, and he might very well improve with the move back to the grass.

Spritely Walker has been consistent regardless of surface, and while winless in 2005, he did finish fourth or better in each of his eight starts last year. Corey Lanerie will ride him on Sunday.