08/01/2005 11:00PM

No second-best for Happy Ticket

Benoit & Associates
Happy Ticket wins the Chicago BC Handicap under Eddie Razo Jr., one of Arlington's top jockeys.

BOSSIER CITY, La. - Happy Ticket is the pride of Louisiana with a 9-for-10 record, and when she ships to Saratoga later this month for the Grade 1, $250,000 Ballerina on Aug. 28, she will be teaming with one of New York's best.

John Velazquez will have the mount on Happy Ticket, said Andrew Leggio Jr., who trains the Louisiana Downs-based filly for Stewart Madison. Velazquez is the leading rider at Saratoga, and he leads all riders in earnings in North America.

Happy Ticket has shipped to Arlington Park and Calder Race Course for her last two starts, and when she raced at those tracks she was ridden by top jockeys at those meets. Eddie Razo Jr. guided her to victory in Arlington's Grade 3 Chicago Breeders' Cup, and Eddie Castro was aboard for her second-place finish to Madcap Escapade in the Grade 2, $500,000 Princess Rooney at Calder. The same protocol is being used in the Ballerina.

"We feel like the jocks that are at the particular tracks that we go to, the leading jocks, we feel like they know their way around that course," said Leggio. "They know where the finish line's at at that particular track, and we feel like that's what we need to do.

"She's easy to ride. She's like a little lamb. All you've got to do is break her out of the gate, pull her together, and let her run when you feel like you want to run."

Happy Ticket breezed five furlongs in a bullet 59.80 seconds last Friday at Louisiana Downs under jockey Lonnie Meche, and she galloped out six furlongs in 1:12.20, according to Leggio. She is scheduled to have two more works at home before traveling. Leggio is in the midst of coordinating flight details for Happy Ticket.

"I'd like to go a week early - that's what I prefer, if that's possible," said Leggio. "That's what we're shooting at."

Leggio said the goal for Happy Ticket is to secure a Grade 1 win, and the Ballerina has been the target for some time.

Happy Ticket began her career in Louisiana and won her first eight starts at different tracks across the state, in races ranging from six furlongs to 1 1/16 miles. She then ventured into graded company at Arlington and Calder.

But home remains Louisiana Downs for Happy Ticket, a 4-year-old daughter of Anet and the mare Love and Happiness, bred in Louisiana by Madison. Last weekend, she was a bright-eyed picture of contentment, munching on hay and watching the shed row action outside her stall door.

"She's beautiful," said Leggio.

Nicks busy in Thursday allowances

Trainer Morris Nicks, who has won with 23 of his 76 starters at the meet to rank second in the standings to Cole Norman, has leading contenders in the two allowances on the card Thursday.

Nicks will start Blue Boundary in the ninth, an entry-level allowance at about 7 1/2 furlongs on turf, and Birthday Lover in the fifth, an entry-level allowance for fillies and mares at 6 1/2 furlongs. He also has a starter in the first, Running Strong.

Blue Boundary was an impressive maiden winner three starts ago, when he rallied for a 1 1/4-length victory in a one-mile turf race May 7. In his last start, he took the lead midway through an entry-level allowance but weakened late and finished seventh in the race, run July 4.

"He had a heat stroke," said Nicks, noting that the temperature surged for the race. Blue Boundary has since recovered well, said Nicks.

"He's sharp, and he's cheerful," said the trainer, who looks for a stalking trip. "He can be the pace, but I'd say he's more likely to be laying just right off the pace then pouncing. That's how he won."

Guy Smith has the mount.

Nicks has 26 horses at Louisiana Downs, and for the past few years his barn has had one of the highest winning percentages on the grounds. This year is no exception. So far, Nicks has won at a 30 percent clip this meet. He said one of his most satisfying wins was Southern Surprise's victory in the $40,000 Fleur de Lis on June 19. That race's one mile and 70 yards is not Southern Surprise's best distance, he said.

"She just dug in," Nicks said. "To me, she's a better seven-eighths, 7 1/2-furlong horse, and she won going a mile and 70. That was something for her to just keep digging in that day. She put a little extra effort in that race. That was fun."

Southern Surprise has since been shipped to Nicks's son, trainer Ralph Nicks, and she won a seven-furlong overnight handicap at Ellis Park. Her next start could come in the Grade 3, $150,000 Gardenia at Ellis on Aug. 20, said Morris Nicks.