10/04/2006 12:00AM

Ponopaan favored among dozen


BOSSIER CITY, La. - There is plenty to choose from in Friday's feature, as a full field of 12 line up and go seven furlongs in an optional claimer. Some are looking for their fourth wins while others have been entered for the $50,000 tag.

Ponopaan is likely to be favored off a second-place performance in a similar spot three weeks ago. A 7-year-old Cole Norman charge, Ponopaan helped set a blistering six-furlong fraction of 1:09.60 before having to settle for second to the crack sprinter Cort's P. B. in that 6 1/2-furlong race. He will be ridden by Carlos Gonzalez and break from post 3, which should allow him to maintain good position toward the front in the large field.

Destined to Star makes a rare sprint appearance on Friday. Last seen in the grassy Shiskabob Stakes here in mid-August, Destined to Star has been freshened by trainer James Hodges for a fall campaign. Destined to Star won off a similar layoff back in the spring, when he put together back-to-back victories, with the first coming on the main track. Louis Quinonez will handle the riding chores.

Hodges also sends out Special Star in Friday's headliner as part of a Foxwood Plantation-owned entry. Special Star is making a comeback of his own after taking the summer off following a fourth-place finish in allowance company at Evangeline Downs in late April. Gerard Melancon will handle the riding chores.

The other half of the Foxwood entry is Zarb's Gunner. Trained by Ray Spencer, the 4-year-old Zarb's Gunner finished a distant fourth in the same race that Ponopaan exits. Don Simington will be in the saddle.

Merrimanista makes his second start for trainer Edward Johnson following a near-miss in optional company on Sept. 10. Johnson will take the blinkers off of the Devil His Due colt and Lonnie Meche takes the return call. Meche trails Gonzalez by two wins in the race for top jockey going into this week's action.

$26K topper in mixed session

Buoyed by Monday's sale-record yearling session, Tuesday's Louisiana Breeders mixed session also posted some strong numbers. Slightly over 100 weanlings, horses of racing age, and breeding stock were sold.

The session's $26,000 topper was a weanling colt by My Friend Max out of the Belek mare Racing for Riches. The bay youngster was consigned by Elysian Bloodstock and purchased by ML Racing Stables LLC.