06/14/2006 11:00PM

Two Pletcher hurdles for Happy Ticket


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - finds herself in a familiar position in Saturday's Grade 2, $300,000 Fleur de Lis Handicap at Churchill Downs. Once again, she is trying to beat a filly from the barn of trainer Todd Pletcher.

In a couple of high-profile match-ups with Pletcher representatives, Happy Ticket ran

second by a half-length to Ashado in last fall's Grade 1 Beldame at Belmont and second by a neck to Spun Sugar last time out in the Grade 1 Apple Blossom at Oaklawn April 8.

In the Fleur de Lis, a 1 1/8-mile dirt race on the Stephen Foster card, Happy Ticket has to deal with two Pletcher trainees: Oonagh Maccool and La Reason. They are likely to take their races to Happy Ticket at different stages. Oonagh Maccool figures to be involved with Happy Ticket in the early running, and La Reason figures to attempt a late run.

Happy Ticket, a 5-year-old Louisiana-bred daughter of Anet who has won 11 of 16 starts, leads the field in accomplishments and speed figures. She won the Grade 1 Ballerina last year and, despite losing her two most recent starts, enters the Fleur de Lis off a pair of triple-digit Beyer Speed Figures, capped by a 103 Beyer in the Apple Blossom.

As fast as she ran, she still lost, which led her connections - trainer Andy Leggio and owner Stewart Madison - to change jockeys for the Fleur de Lis. Julien Leparoux replaces Robby Albarado, who has ridden Happy Ticket in her three starts in 2006.

"It's nothing personal against Robby," Leggio said. "We didn't win those races."

Of the Pletcher pair, Oonagh Maccool appears the greater threat to Happy Ticket. Although she hasn't run as quickly as Happy Ticket, Oonagh Maccool has been overpowering in her victories, winning all three of her starts on dirt by open lengths. She won the Louisville Handicap by 3 1/4 lengths on Kentucky Oaks Day, which followed an easy win in the Rampart Handicap at Gulfstream.

If Oonagh Maccool is able to break alertly, something she has struggled to do since being brought to America from Europe, she might be able to beat Happy Ticket to the lead in a race devoid of pace. Rafael Bejarano rides.

La Reason, making her second start for Pletcher after WinStar Farm bought an interest in her, appears to be the best of the rest. She ran second to Oonagh Maccool in the Louisville Breeders' Cup and third in the Apple Blossom.

Gallant Secret, Character Builder, and Soul Search complete the six-horse field.