06/30/2006 11:00PM

Northern Scene tests Waupaca


Trainer Morris Nicks has won with an outstanding 6 of 14 starters over the Louisiana Downs turf course this meet and on Monday he will send out his stable's top older turf horse, Northern Scene, against Texas invader Waupaca in the $75,000 Independence Handicap.

Waupaca is the 121-pound highweight in the Independence, to be run over 1 1/16 miles on turf. Among the nine starters in the field are Commander Buck, Silver Haze, and One Tuff Fox.

Northern Scene will tote 119 pounds off his half-length win in the $50,000 Barksdale Handicap at Louisiana Downs on May 29. The one-mile turf race was his first start since December, and Northern Scene stalked the pace and rallied for a half-length win, covering the distance in 1:34.80.

"I think a mile or a mile and a sixteenth, he's just as good," said Nicks. "Really, the other day, if we'd been going a mile and a sixteenth, I think he'd have won by himself. He was starting to draw away from them. I mean, he only won by a half-length, but his momentum, he was starting to get away from them."

Since the victory, Northern Scene seems to have thrived. In his final drill for the Independence, he went five furlongs in a bullet 1:00.40 on June 28.

"Now, we'll just hope for the best," said Nicks, who has given the mount to Lonnie Meche.

Northern Scene, who is 5 for 12 over the local turf course, could secure a stalking trip behind Commander Buck, and Waupaca, whom Nicks sees as the horse to beat. Waupaca is shortening up from a third-place finish in the Grade 3, $200,000 Dallas Turf Cup at 1 1/8 miles on June 17. He is looking for his sixth win over the Louisiana Downs turf and is defending his title in the Independence. Trainer Donnie Von Hemel has given the mount to Quincy Hamilton.

Commander Buck finished in a dead heat for second in the Barksdale. He has speed and will break from post 2.

"He's more comfortable when he's out on the front," said Tom Howard, who trains Commander Buck. "He's capable of coming from off of it [but] he likes it out there, and with the way he's been running, I sure don't want to change it around."

Commander Buck won a one-mile allowance on the lead at Oaklawn in March, and earned a career-best Beyer Figure of 99. From there, he was second in the $75,000 John Henry at Evangeline Downs, then he placed in the Barksdale. Howard has given the mount to Cody Meche.