05/26/2005 11:00PM

Rodeo's Castle returns a success


Rodeo's Castle, last seen here winning a $12,500 nonwinners-of-two claimer in October, returns a stakes winner Sunday, when he heads the cast for the $50,000 Kings Court Stakes at Louisiana Downs. A six-furlong sprint, the Kings Court drew a field of eight and will be run as the eighth race on an 11-race program.

A 4-year-old trained by Beverly Fowler, Rodeo Castle's rise to stardom has been nothing short of remarkable. After beginning the year with a runner-up finish against allowance company at Oaklawn, he reeled off three consecutive victories before finishing off the board in the Grade 3 Count Fleet Handicap at Oaklawn in April.

In his most recent start, Rodeo's Castle was a late entrant in the $75,000 Ford Express Stakes at Lone Star Park after that race drew only four others. It was a strong group, however, that included sprinters Joe Six Pack and That Tat, the third-place finisher in the Count Fleet. Breaking sharply from the inside under Jon Court, Rodeo's Castle set all the pace and held on gamely to prevail by a head, finishing in a sparkling 1:07.40 and earning a 105 Beyer Speed Figure.

won the first two starts of his career here last year, including his debut, before changing barns via the claim box. Jeff Burningham, aboard for the three victories at Oaklawn earlier in the year, will return to the saddle.

Also sporting a perfect local record but making a somewhat less triumphant return is . A three-time winner here, including the 2003 Airline Stakes, Watchem Smokey was purchased privately later that year and was shipped to new trainer Bobby Frankel on the West Coast. Following a modest stint with Frankel in which he won 2 of 11 starts, Watchem Smokey changed hands again, this time for a $100,000 claiming tag at Keeneland on April 13. Watchem Smokey then finished fourth in a tough money allowance sprint on the Kentucky Derby undercard, setting the stage for his return to Louisiana downs. Marlon St. Julien will handle the riding chores on Sunday.

Others in the field include , a two-time stakes winner against Arkansas-breds for leading trainer Cole Norman, and Lac Laronge, who has won three races this year, including the $100,000 Louisiana Premier Sprint at Delta Downs in February.