11/13/2009 12:00AM

Speed could set up Wildrally

Louis Hodges Jr.
Classy Deelites is one of several front-running horses in Saturday's Mr. Sulu Stakes at Fair Grounds.

Trainer Tim Ice bases his operation at Louisiana Downs through summer and fall, but Ice hasn't been around all that much. While the rest of the stable stayed home, Ice went to Belmont, Monmouth, Saratoga, and back to Belmont. Then it was on to Santa Anita, and now a trip to Japan looms, too. All this for just one horse - but since that horse is presumptive 3-year-old champion Summer Bird, Ice has been happy to hit the road.

"I'm not going to say it's been easy being away all the time, but we've held together pretty good," Ice said by phone Thursday.

Summer Bird has won four races in 2009, but Wildrally, one of Ice's Louisiana left-behinds, is right behind with three wins this year. Wildrally is back in action Saturday at Fair Grounds in the featured Mr. Sulu Stakes, a grass route stakes that serves as a prep for the Louisiana Champions Day Turf next month.

Mr. Sulu, for whom the race is named, battled over and over with fellow Louisiana-bred turfer Coach Rags. Wildrally has a similar relationship with Desert Wheat, another one of the 12 horses entered in the Mr. Sulu. Both horses have earned more than $100,000 racing on the Fair Grounds grass, and both drew outside Saturday, with Wildrally taking the worst of things in post 12. But the presence of several front-running types could spread the Mr. Sulu field and set the race up for Desert Wheat or Wildrally.

Wildrally won once in 2008 and went winless in his first eight starts this year. But after being freshened up from early July to late August, Wildrally won three straight on the Louisiana Downs lawn.

"We made a little change in how we're training him, done a few little things here and there trying to figure him out," Ice said. "I think it helped."

Wildrally has rallied to win in the past but stuck close to a quick pace in his most recent victory.

"We'll let him break and see where he's at," said Ice, who has named Curt Bourque to ride.

Classy Deelites does his best work on the front end and could get too much of a taxing pace Saturday. And with the richer Champions Day Turf on the horizon, do not expect any of the top contenders to be leaving everything out on the course this time around.