04/15/2010 12:00AM

Snakebite Kit tries stakes at Evangeline


The turf course at Evangeline Downs makes its 2010 debut in a big way Saturday night as it hosts the $50,000 John Henry Stakes. The 1 1/16-mile test, named for the racing legend who won his first career stakes at the old Evangeline, drew a competitive field of 10 and will go as the evening's fifth race.

An unusually dry and cool spring had postponed racing on the grass until late in the second week of the season.

"We were still getting some morning temperatures in the 30s up until a couple of weeks ago," Evangeline racing secretary Coleman Lloyd said. "We needed some warmer weather, which we got along with a little rain, so the course is good to go."

Snakebite Kit, a 4-year-old Sky Classic gelding who is a perfect 4 for 4 in his career, including three grass wins, will be making his first stakes start in the John Henry. The Eddie Johnston charge scored at first asking over the Fair Grounds turf in early January and has not looked back. The veteran trainer said putting Snakebite Kit on the grass was a no-brainer from the beginning.

"His pedigree is turf on turf," Johnston said Thursday morning. "Sky Classic [by Nijinsky II] is all grass on top, and he has a half-sister who did very well on it."

While all three of Snakebite Kit's grass wins have come in front-running fashion, Johnston believes his latest stable star has the ability to come from off the pace as well, which he did in winning his lone try on the main track.

"He has just sort of fallen out of there on top in those grass races," Johnston said. "It is all about getting him to relax, which he did successfully in that one dirt try. I think he can run either way."

John Jacinto, aboard for all four of Snakebite Kit's victories, will once again be in the saddle.

Also in the John Henry is Ide Like a Double. The 5-year-old campaigner is an eight-time winner of more than $525,000, although he is still looking for his first win on grass. Kerwin Clark will handle the riding chores Saturday.

Another in the field is Brentwood Bullet. Trained by Morris Nicks, Brentwood Bullet has won half of his eight races on the turf, including a gate-to-wire allowance score at Fair Grounds in February. Eddie Martin Jr. has the call.