07/29/2004 11:00PM

Turf win gives 'Okie' edge

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BOSSIER CITY, La. - Bettors may have a difficult time establishing a favorite in Sunday's optional claiming feature. The one-mile turf affair is chock-full of steady veterans as well as some younger performers still trying to get through their conditions.

Notable Okie moves to the grass after just missing on the main track last time and may be a lukewarm public choice. A 4-year-old Editor's Note gelding, Notable Okie won the E. L. Gaylord Memorial Stakes on the turf last fall at Remington at Sunday's one-mile distance. Luis Quinonez will ride for trainer Donnie Von Hemel.

Critical Battle will be the one to catch. He exits a front-running win on the main track for a $30,000 tag. He won over the Lone Star turf course two starts back, when he led every step of the way.

Leading jockey Lonnie Meche rides as Critical Battle makes his local debut.

Fat Cat, a late-blooming 4-year-old by Broad Brush, is 3 for 5 in his career on dirt and will attempt to transfer that success to the turf in his first start over the surface. Trained by perennial leading conditioner Cole Norman, Fat Cat will be ridden by two-time defending riding champ Gerard Melancon.

Varoom next phenom for Norman

Last season at Louisiana Downs, Norman unveiled several promising first-time starters, including three talented 2-year-olds for owners Gary and Mary West: Joe Six Pack, who went on to win the Minstrel Stakes; South Africa, who recently won the Airline Stakes; and Mass Media, who followed his 11 1/4-length victory in his debut with a 22-length allowance win that had his connections thinking Breeders' Cup Juvenile.

On Thursday, Norman unleashed another eye-catching runner for the Wests, Varoom, who closed out the program with a 10-length victory in 1:11.49 for six furlongs. A 3-year-old, Varoom paid $15.40, a large payoff considering the strength of the connections.

By Cozzene out of a Summer Squall mare, Varoom should be able to run on turf and around two turns, so it will be very interesting to see where he'll surface for his next start.