08/31/2004 12:00AM

Prelude board-hitters eye Super Derby

Louisiana Downs
Distinctive Code, a three-time stakes winner, was retired and will be bred to Speightstown.

South Africa, Fantasticat, and Britt's Jules are all pointing for the Grade 2, $500,000 Super Derby at Louisiana Downs after finishing about a half-length apart in last weekend's $60,000 Prelude Stakes.

The Prelude is the local prep for the Super Derby, which will be run on Sept. 25.

South Africa made his two-turn debut in the Prelude. He set the pace in the 1 1/16-mile race en route to his second stakes win at the meet, following his victory in the $50,000 Airline. For his effort, he earned a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 94 - and remained perfect at Louisiana Downs.

"He showed he could go two turns Saturday," said Cole Norman, who trains South Africa for Mary and Gary West Stables.

Norman believes South Africa, who has won 4 of 7 starts, is a better horse around two turns. He said South Africa, who is by Cape Town, will be ridden by John Jacinto in the Super Derby.

The Prelude win was the third since 1998 for Norman. He won the race in 1998 with Code Six, then won the 1999 running with Brassy Wells.

Fantasticat, who added blinkers for the Prelude, was a fast-closing second under Gerard Melancon.

"He ran a big race," said Bobby Barnett, who trains Fantasticat for R Bar S Thoroughbreds. "We've got him back at Churchill, and if everything goes right, we plan on coming back down there for the big one."

Earlier this year, Fantasticat finished second to the Super Derby-bound Cryptograph in the Grade 3 Round Table at Arlington Park. Fantasticat is by Storm Cat and out of the Grade 3-winning mare Lotta Dancing.

Britt's Jules removed blinkers for the Prelude, and after stalking the early pace made a bid in the stretch and finished third. Eric Guillot, who trains the colt, said he bled through Lasix.

"He bled a 2 out of 5," said Guillot. "It's been humid here. He's doing okay."

Provided that Britt's Jules bounces back out of the race well, he will advance to the Super Derby, Guillot said. He will be ridden by Guy Smith.

Britt's Jules was favored in the Prelude on the heels of a strong third-place finish to Sir Shackleton in the Grade 3, $600,000 West Virginia Derby.

Others from the Prelude whose connections have mentioned the Super Derby as a goal are fourth-place finisher Xirius and sixth-place finisher Mr. Jester.

Distinctive Code to be bred to Speightstown

Distinctive Code has been retired and sold to Taylor Made Farm in Kentucky and is scheduled to be bred next year to Speightstown. Distinctive Code was one of the region's top sprint mares for years. She raced for Mrs. Billie Courtney, and was trained by Larry Robideaux Jr.

In all, Distinctive Code won 8 of 25 starts and $262,460. She won three stakes, with two of them at Louisiana Downs and the other at Fair Grounds. Her last start came in late April at Lone Star Park.

"She wasn't breaking well [lately], and that told me she didn't want to be a racehorse anymore," said Robideaux. "It was time."

Distinctive Code, who is 5, has settled in at Taylor Made.

"She's the type of mare that we love," said Steve Castagnola of Taylor Made. "She's a big, beautiful, racy mare who was honest, finishing first or second in 25 starts."

Castagnola said another part of Distinctive Code's appeal was the fact that she is a daughter of Lost Code. He said plans are to breed her to Speightstown upon his retirement, which is expected to follow a start in the $1 million Breeders' Cup Sprint at Lone Star Park on Oct. 30.

Speightstown will be one of the favorites for that race following his smashing win last out in the Grade 2 Vanderbilt at Saratoga. Speightstown is a son of Gone West.

New commissioners in Louisiana

The Louisiana Racing Commission has been expanded to 13 members after four new members were appointed to the board earlier this month. Their appointments satisfy new legislation that calls for a commissioner from each of the parishes, or counties, where tracks are located in Louisiana.

Lane Pittard will represent Bossier parish, home of Louisiana Downs; Robert Talbot is from Orleans parish, home of Fair Grounds; Wells Watson will represent Calcasieu parish, home of Delta Downs; and Bobby Dupre is from St. Landry parish, the new home of Evangeline Downs.

The first meeting for the new commissioners will be on Oct. 8, said Charles Gardiner, executive director of the Louisiana Racing Commission.

The expansion to 13 members makes the Louisiana Racing Commission one of the largest such panels in North America.

Nicks-trained Abbeys Runner tough in sprint

Trainer Morris Nicks has been unstoppable this meet, winning with 41 percent of his starters. And he is in a position to keep the ball rolling on Thursday, when he starts leading contender Abbeys Runner in the featured 10th race at Louisiana Downs.

Abbeys Runner might be favored in the six-furlong optional claimer for fillies and mares. In her last start she was a 3 3/4-length winner of an entry-level allowance, earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 95. That figure is at least nine points higher than any of her rivals, including top contender Love Em N Leave Em, who will be shooting for her third straight win.

Leading rider Lonnie Meche has the mount on Abbeys Runner for Nicks, who has won with 20 of 49 starters the current Louisiana Downs meet.