12/09/2004 12:00AM

One filly's streak must end

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NEW ORLEANS - They're calling it the race of the day. The $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Ladies for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles pits two of the best Louisiana-bred fillies ever, Destiny Calls and Happy Ticket, against each other. Destiny Calls, a 4-year-old by With Approval, has won six consecutive races and has finished worse than second only once in 12 lifetime starts. Happy Ticket, a 3-year-old filly by Anet, is undefeated in six lifetime starts.

What makes this rivalry so intriguing is that both fillies are lightning fast.

"I expect them to hook up," said Gary Palmisano, who trains Destiny Calls for Vickie Krantz, whose family sold Fair Grounds to Churchill Downs Inc. in October.

Happy Ticket did not race at 2 and was brought along slowly by trainer Andrew Leggio Jr. She finally made it to the races June 4 and has not come close to losing in sprints and routes, on dirt and grass.

Destiny Calls may be compromised after struggling to win a prep race at Fair Grounds Nov. 27, when she was involved in a fast pace over a dull racetrack. The next day, she was off her feed and Palmisano talked about passing the Ladies. Destiny Calls has apparently overcome the effects of the race and Palmisano made the decision to run earlier this week.

"Either she got something out of that race or she'll bounce," he said. "You never know until the quarter pole. Horses can seem perfectly fine and then just not have it on race day. But she's tough and she's telling us she wants to run."

Juvenile: Crimson Stag the X factor

Owner Terry Finley has no idea what to expect from his horse Crimson Stag in Saturday's Champions Day Juvenile, because Crimson Stag has never competed against Louisiana-breds. All of Crimson Stag's races have been against open company in Kentucky or at Saratoga, where he won his maiden Aug. 2 in a five-furlong sprint.

"It's not easy to win at Saratoga," said Finley, whose West Point Thoroughbreds syndicate brought a stable of horses to Saratoga. "He was our only winner up there and I'm grateful to him for that. He won on Whitney Day."

Crimson Stag took on Proud Accolade in an allowance race in his next start, got knocked around, and ended up grabbing a quarter. He ran twice in allowance races at Keeneland, finishing third and second, then came to Fair Grounds with trainer Dallas Stewart. Now his connections will find out how he will fare against Louisiana-breds.

"Up until now everything's gone well," said Finley. "We'll see if the plan holds up Saturday."

Sprint: Zarb's Luck goes for three-peat

Only one horse has won three Champions Day races - Dixie Poker Ace took the first three runnings of the Turf. Zarb's Luck will try to match that feat by winning his third consecutive Sprint. Trainer Eddie Johnston, the co-owner of the 7-year-old Zarb's Luck with Scott Boudreaux, has brought him along shrewdly for this race, running him in the Delta Downs Gold Cup at a mile before dropping back in distance in the Sprint.

"He loves this track," said Johnston after Zarb's Luck turned in a 48.40-second half-mile breeze in his final work for the Sprint.

Zarb's Luck might be the sentimental favorite, but the betting public is likely to prefer Zarb's Dahar, who has won six consecutive sprint races and is clearly the speed of the speed in a race guaranteed to produce blazing fractions. That could play directly into Robby Albarado's stalking tactics aboard Zarb's Luck.

Turf: Mr. Sulu formidable

The way Mr. Sulu split horses to beat a Fair Grounds turf allowance field Nov. 28 in his first start since May suggests that he will be hard to beat in the Champions Day Turf at 1 1/16 miles. The 6-year-old Mr. Sulu won so impressively that the runner-up, White Star, is going in the Classic after being pre-entered in both races. Bebe Garcon, who appeared short finishing third in that same race, is likely to put in a better effort this time. Trainer Ray Spencer is playing Texas hold 'em with Screen Idol, who is cross-entered in the Turf, where he drew the rail, and in the Classic, where he drew the outside post.

Handicap: Sunup Sundown may get ideal setup

The Steve Asmussen-trained Sunup Sundown drew the rail and a 117-pound impost for the Louisiana Champions Day Handicap at 1 1/16 miles on the dirt. The 8-year-old Sunup Sundown is a consistent sort who could work out a good trip under jockey Gerard Melancon. Speedsters Setemup Joe, Jacob's Prospect, and Ponopaan are likely to set brisk fractions to run at.

Lassie: The Beter Man Can one to beat

The Beter Man Can, undefeated in two starts, including the $50,000 Laurel Lane at Louisiana Downs, tops a field of nine in the six-furlong Lassie for 2-year-old fillies. Laurel Lane runnerup Equestrian Girl and third-place finisher Indigo Girl, who has won three in a row, both have a chance.