03/27/2008 12:00AM

Strong duo behind Bandido


Bandido will have Delta Downs's hottest jockey-trainer team in his corner Saturday night when he seeks the first stakes win of his career in the $50,000 Cocodrie. The race is one of two restricted seven-furlong stakes on the meet's closing card, with the other the $60,000 Gardenia for fillies and mares. Both races are restricted to Lousiana-bred 4-year-olds and up who have never won a stakes.

Bandido is trained by Keith Bourgeois. He will be ridden by Gerard Melancon. When Melancon and Bourgeois have teamed together this meet, they have won an outstanding 37 percent of the time. Further, no trainer or rider has won more races at the meet, with both setting season win records at Delta. Bourgeois had won 84 races through Wednesday night, and Melancon had won 140.

All this bodes well for Bandido, a winner of 4 of 6 starts who is returning to the Louisiana-bred ranks for the Cocodrie. The last time he ran against his own kind, he was third to multiple stakes winner All Wired Up in the $100,000 Premier Night Sprint at Delta Downs on Feb. 2. He will be stretching out to two turns for the first time Saturday.

"I think he can get two turns," said Melancon, his regular rider. "He rates well. He doesn't have to be on the lead."

Bandido has shown versatility in his races, winning his maiden from a stalking position, then taking his next three starts wire to wire. He will break from post 4.

"He likes to be fairly close," Melancon said. "The seven furlongs, he ought to be right there in the race."

The chief threat could be John Charles, a winner of 3 of 4 starts, or Hallway, a multiple-stakes-placed closer.

In the Gardenia, there appears to be no clear-cut favorite. Coach Mike will get support for running second to multiple stakes winner Smitty's Sunshine the last time she faced statebreds in February, while Southern Banner owns the field's best last-race Beyer Speed Figure, a 71.