08/15/2007 11:00PM

Pantara Phantom tries turf for first time


BOSSIER CITY, La. - The meet's first significant turf races for 2-year-olds are scheduled for Saturday with a pair of one-mile stakes worth $75,000 each. The Sunny's Halo drew a field of seven aspiring young grass stars, while the Donnie Wilhite Memorial will have nine filly counterparts.

Pantara Phantom, the winner of both of his starts, including the $100,000 Stardust Stakes against Louisiana-breds, makes his turf debut Saturday in the Sunny's Halo. Trained by Pat Mouton, Pantara Phantom has shown some versatility in his short career, rallying from well back to win his five-furlong debut over a sloppy strip and then controlling the pace in the six-furlong Stardust. The only two-time winner in the field, he also has a big asset in the saddle in the form of E.J. Perrodin, the best turf rider in the region.

No 2-year-old stakes is complete these days without a representative from the powerful barn of Steve Asmussen, and the Sunny's Halo is no exception. Poni Colada graduated at first asking in early June over the Lone Star turf course in front-running fashion. The Volponi colt will have the services of Shaun Bridgmohan, who will be making a rare trip to the area to ride.

Two others in the Sunny's Halo, named for the winner of the 1983 Kentucky Derby and the Super Derby later that same year, also won their maidens over the Lone Star grass course. Moody Jones, trained by Dallas Keen, overcame a slow start and a wide trip on July 27 to prevail in game fashion. Justaclown also broke slowly before rallying to post a head victory a day later on July 28. Larry Taylor and Glenn Murphy will handle the respective riding duties.

In the Wilhite, another Asmussen charge, American Prize, will be a heavy favorite. A Pure Prize filly, American Prize graduated at first asking over the Polytrack at Arlington before finishing second in the Princess Stakes here on July 14. In her most recent start, American Prize rated kindly in the early going of the Silver Spur Breeders' Cup at Lone Star and rallied to win. Bridgmohan will ride her as well.

Vengeful Shadow may be best qualified to pull off the upset in the Wilhite. Trained by Donnie Von Hemel, she is the only member of the cast to have won going two turns on the grass. Following three unsuccessful sprint attempts on the main track in Texas-bred maiden claiming company, Vengeful Shadow, a daughter of Shadow Caster, improved significantly when moved to the turf, defeating open maiden special weight foes in her most recent start. Don Pettinger will once again handle the riding chores.

Lyrique: Wine Diva returns

Mouton and Perrodin will team up again in the $75,000 Lyrique Stakes for 3-year-old fillies with the well-traveled Wine Diva, a Pine Bluff filly. She is back in Mouton's barn after a journey that carried her to Florida and most recently Monmouth Park, where she finished sixth in the Serena's Song Stakes. She won the Lady Luck Stakes here last year as a 2-year-old.

Concern: Barksdale pair meet again

The $75,000 Concern Stakes appears to be a showdown between the last two winners of the Barksdale Handicap here, Middleweight and Northern Scene.

Middleweight prevailed by a nose in that event here on June 23 after finishing sixth behind Northern Scene in last year's edition. Northern Scene finished sixth in this year's Barksdale.