05/11/2006 11:00PM

Picata's late kick can get it done


After just missing in a second-level optional claimer at Oaklawn in her last start, Picata catches the same conditions again in Sunday's featured eighth race and should rule as the one to beat. A 4-year-old Rizzi filly, Picata has come to hand for trainer Gary Thomas recently, as she scored a convincing first-level optional win two starts back on April 7. She has developed a solid late kick, and there appears to be an ample amount early pace in Sunday's six-furlong headliner to set the stage for her late run. Thomas has given Donnie Meche the return call.

Miss Connie Sue made her first start in 2006 a winning one at Oaklawn as she defeated a good group of $32,000 claiming fillies and mares. Claimed for $18,000 at Hawthorne in her final start of 2005 by trainer Bret Calhoun, Miss Connie Sue paid immediate dividends for her new connections and should be a factor from off the pace on Sunday. Joel Santiago will handle the riding chores.

Cole Norman, who is in his customary spot atop the trainer standings at this young meeting, will send out Patches of Speed. As her name suggests, she will be the one to catch. Patches of Speed came within a neck of winning her last start, a $32,000 claimer at Oaklawn. Gerard Melancon will be in the saddle.

* Jockey Jeff Burningham is busy making up for time lost to an injury sustained over the winter at the Fair Grounds meeting at Louisiana Downs. A 33-year-old native of Montreal, Burningham suffered significant head trauma on the morning of Jan. 5 when he was stepped on after being tossed from a horse he was working out of the gate. The resulting injury required the placement of four small plates in his skull.

"The recovery went all right," Burningham said Friday. "I started back gradually at Evangeline Downs a couple of weeks ago to kind of ease back into things before we started this meeting."

Burningham finished fifth in the rider standings here last year with 66 wins and is off to a quick start this season. He booted home six winners on opening weekend to take an early lead in the standings.

"So far so good," Burningham said. "Things are really working out well so far."