12/29/2006 12:00AM

Skyward Exchange hampered by rain


NEW ORLEANS - Skyward Exchange turned in one of the more impressive performances by a 3-year-old filly at the Fair Grounds meet on Dec. 17, running six furlongs in 1:10.62 to win a first-level allowance and earn an 87 Beyer Speed Figure.

It was her second consecutive victory after a maiden score at Churchill Downs in November. She had been off since February, when she suffering a chipped ankle while running second to Ermine, who went on to finish second in the Kentucky Oaks and win the Falls City Handicap.

Trainer Pat Herbert is looking for the next spot to run Skyward Exchange, but persistent rain has interfered with the filly's training schedule.

"She's coming along all right," said Herbert on Friday. "She hasn't worked in a little while. The weather's kind of gotten us off track a little bit. We're looking to do something once this rain gets over with. It's supposed to rain here real bad tonight. We were pleased with her last race. We're not sure where she's going to run next. We're hoping for something around the middle of next month."

Herbert noted that former stable star Destiny Calls has been retired.

"We shipped her out to Kentucky about a week ago," she said. "She's going to be bred to Seeking the Gold."

A versatile 5-year-old mare, Destiny Calls won 14 of 27 starts and $644,220. She won six stakes, including the $100,000 Red Camelia on turf at Fair Grounds and the $150,000 Louisiana Premier Night Distaff on dirt at Delta Downs.

Connor's Call captures futurity

Connor's Call won the $45,000 Louisiana Futurity on Friday's card. A 2-year-old Storm Day colt, Connor's Call stayed close to the pace under Jamie Theriot, took over at will, and drew off to a four-length win with plenty in reserve, covering the six furlongs in 1:12.

"He's a nice colt," said trainer Sturges J. Ducoing. "I think he'll go long, too."

Ducoing, who gave special credit to his assistant of some 40 years, Don Suberville, said he wasn't sure what the next step for Connor's Call will be.

"There's some stakes at Delta that he's eligible to," he said. "We'll wait three or four days and see how he walks before we decide."

Anything But Quiet rallied late to win the filly division of the Futurity at 7-1 over Princess Deelite and favored Huckie.

Graham rides four winners

Jockey James Graham was in rare form Thursday afternoon, winning four races, including one with 16-1 shot Punchy Lewis.

Graham began his streak aboard 3-1 Pick Your Poison in the fifth race, a six-furlong dirt sprint, sitting behind the early leaders before moving to the front on the turn and outfinishing Malcolm D Cat to the wire. Just before he dismounted, Graham blew a kiss at the camera.

"That's for me mum," he said.

Graham then swept the seventh through ninth races. He put in a rousing drive aboard Flirty Red Bird in the seventh, a turf route. Flirty Red Bird appeared hopelessly beaten at the top of the stretch but a furious sequence of right-handed whipping helped Flirty Red Bird get up by 1 1/4 lengths at 5-1 odds.

Graham turned in a masterpiece aboard Punchy Lewis in a maiden dirt route, pushing the horse to the outside for the drive with left-handed whipping, then switching sticks through the stretch and leaning on the horse while he kept trying to lug in.

"He's just a baby," Graham explained. "He only ran for me in spurts when I got after him. Then at the end I didn't have to touch him. He's going to be a good one."

Graham finished up aboard 5-2 favorite Transduction Gold in the feature, a second-level allowance turf route in which Graham made an inside-out move and the Formal Gold 3-year-old drew off with little urging.