06/09/2005 11:00PM

Outsmoken must avoid speed duel to prevail

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BOSSIER CITY, La. - Sunday's allowance headliner at Louisiana Downs carries considerably more intrigue than your typical nonwinners-of-two. A diverse group of 11 will line up to go six furlongs in pursuit of the $25,000 purse.

The track's perennial leading trainer, Cole Norman, will send out two of the major contenders, Outsmoken and Royal Saint, who are uncoupled in the wagering.

Outsmoken, who sold for $130,000 as a 2-year-old, made his much-awaited debut at Oaklawn Park the final weekend in February after some minor setbacks delayed his coming-out party. A son of Smoke Glacken, he won a maiden special by more than five lengths, earning a solid Beyer Speed Figure of 82.

In his next race, against entry-level allowance types, Outsmoken had the misfortune of catching Semaphore Man, who has since become a fixture in the 3-year-old sprint stakes ranks in the Midwest. Unable to match strides with that foe in the final furlong, Outsmoken had to settle for second after setting the pace, but still managed to earn a Beyer Figure of 81

In his most recent start, Outsmoken once again went to the front early against allowance foes before fading down the lane over a drying-out Lone Star Park strip he apparently failed to handle. That race has also turned out to be a key one, with both the winner and third-place finishers proving victorious in their next start. With clear skies and a fast track to work with Sunday, Outsmoken appears to be in position to pick up his second victory.

Royal Saint also fetched $130,000 at auction, when he passed through the ring at the Keeneland yearling sale in September of 2003. A Saint Ballado colt, he ran ninth and last at 5-2 in his debut last fall at Delaware Park. Norman has since taken over the training duties for Royal Saint, and he won at first asking with him in maiden company last month.

Venomous, similar to Outsmoken, will attempt to make amends for a disappointing effort as the favorite in his most recent start. Trained by Pat Mouton, Venomous raced head and head in a first-level allowance sprint on May 21, helping carve out quick fractions of 21.80 seconds for the quarter-mile and 44.40 for the half. With Outsmoken appearing equally as quick, the expected speed duel likely sets the race up for someone to pick up the pieces.

That someone could be Catquit. He made a steady gain in his last start, completing the exacta at almost 8-1. He will be shorter in price on Sunday, and deservedly so, the way the race sets up from a pace standpoint. Gerard Melancon has the call.