11/04/2003 12:00AM

Only end of meet can cool Meche


Jockey Lonnie Meche is running out of meet. The hottest rider at Louisiana Downs, Meche has won 22 races over the last two weeks, and at that kind of pace would seem to have the title within his grasp - if only the season was a little longer. Louisiana Downs will close Sunday.

Meche has won 82 races this meet to rank third in the standings behind Kirk LeBlanc, who has won 97. Gerard Melancon is second with 93. Meche ranks first in win-percentage, however, at 23.

"I've had a great meet," said Meche, 29. "It's really picked up toward the end."

Meche arrived at Louisiana Downs a few weeks late this meet in order to finish up the spring season at Churchill Downs. He had not ridden at Louisiana Downs in years but has had success here in the past, winning the title at the track in 1997 and taking the Super Derby with Outofthebox in 2001. This year, Meche decided to ride at Louisiana Downs, partly because he had the support of trainer Steve Asmussen.

"I was either going to come here or go to Ellis, and I thought I could do better here because I had a big stable to ride for," said Meche.

Meche also ended up with the mount on one of the best horses at the meet. He guided Warleigh, whom Asmussen claimed for himself for $100,000 at Saratoga, to an eight-length win in the $100,000 Louisiana Downs Handicap in September. After that race, Asmussen sold Warleigh to one of his clients, Ro Parra, and saddled Warleigh to win the $40,000 Alliance with Meche aboard.

Both races were on turf, where Meche has excelled all season, winning with 26 percent of his grass mounts at Louisiana Downs.

Meche has also won a number of races this meet for trainer Terry Brennan, who as of last Sunday had won with 43 percent of his starters at Louisiana Downs.

Meche said he wants to return here next year after riding at the spring meets in Kentucky. Later this month, he will move his tack to Fair Grounds.

Meche on turf in feature

Meche will be putting his turf skills to use in the first race Thurday, a $50,000 optional claimer. The 7 1/2-furlong turf race for 2-year-old fillies drew six, and Meche will ride contender Humble Lane.

Humble Lane won her maiden on turf in August. She will be asked to negotiate two turns for the first time.

The only fillies in the field who have raced at two turns are Platinum Ballet and Successful Cat.

Bien Nicole points to Cardinal

Bien Nicole, who won the $50,000 Honeymoon opening weekend at Louisiana Downs, came out of her ninth-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf in good order, and is being pointed for the Grade 3, $150,000 Cardinal at Churchill Downs Nov. 22, said her trainer, Donnie Von Hemel.

Bien Nicole has won graded stakes on dirt and turf this year and has earned more than $600,000. Her dirt win came in the Grade 3, $200,000 Oaklawn Breeders' Cup in March, and last month she won on turf in the Grade 2, $500,000 WinStar Galaxy at Keeneland. Overall, Bien Nicole has won 12 races and $1,039,580.

Von Hemel's other turf stakes winner at the meet, Waupaca, is being pointed for the $100,000 Woodchopper Handicap for 3-year-olds at Fair Grounds on Dec. 27. Waupaca won three turf races this meet, including the Wilhite Memorial on the Super Derby undercard in September.

* Blue Guru, who captured the meet's lone two-turn dirt stakes for fillies and mares when she won the $50,000 Delicada in July, is getting a breather and will start next in the $50,000 Sam Houston Distaff on Jan. 17, said her trainer Shane Wilson. Her connections are also looking at races like the $100,000 Chou Croute at Fair Grounds on Feb. 21, and the $75,000 Goddess at Delta Downs on March 26.