09/14/2005 11:00PM

Shiskabob a starting point for Witt Ante


Last year, the Shiskabob was Witt Ante's launching pad to a winter campaign in which he locked up the award for champion older Louisiana-bred of 2004. This year's $100,000 renewal of the Shiskabob again will serve as something of a starting point for Witt Ante, who will be making his first start since April.

The Shiskabob is one of 13 stakes on the annual Breeders' Festival card at Louisiana Downs on Saturday. All races are restricted to Louisiana-breds, and total purses for the program, made up of eight Thoroughbred races and five Quarter Horse stakes, is a record $1,075,000. That's up from $880,000 last year, thanks to the performance of slot machines.

Among the horses on the rich card are , who can go over the $500,000 mark in earnings with a win in the $75,000 Victoria; Voodoo Gold, a 2-year-old out for his third straight stakes win in the $75,000 Stardust; Zarb's Dahar, defending champ in the $75,000 Cajun; and Vals Fortune, a Quarter Horse attempting to win his ninth straight race in race 3.

These are heady times for Louisiana-breds. The Jockey Club on Thursday issued a report stating the number of Louisiana-sired foals has increased 12 percent over last year to 1,635. And then there is Happy Ticket, who has been a one-filly billboard for the state's breeding program, winning 10 of 11 starts, including the Grade 1 Ballerina at Saratoga.

is the class of the Shiskabob, the featured 1 1/16-mile turf race that drew nine, including the up-and-coming Chip Hunter. Witt Ante is returning to the statebred ranks after finishing fifth in the $125,000 Gulf Coast Breeders' Cup at Delta Downs on April 2.

"I really wasn't gunning for this spot, but he's come around pretty quick," said Larry Robideaux, who trains Witt Ante. "We've got a lot of miles in him. I've actually only given him two works, but he's had a lot of two-minute licks."

Witt Ante, to be ridden by Tracy Hebert, is looking for his first turf win in the Shiskabob after finishing a big second in the race last year at 7-1. He went on to win the $100,000 Gold Cup at Delta and the $150,000 Louisiana Champions Day Classic, which are again goals for 2005.

In the $100,000 Walmac International Matchmaker on the grass, Our Love returns to the statebred ranks. In her last start she stretched out to two turns and won the $50,000 Sangue in course-record time. Trainer Jeff Trosclair has John Jacinto riding.