09/08/2010 2:47PM

Two riders way ahead of the rest

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BOSSIER CITY, La. – While excitement is beginning to build for Super Derby, to be run on closing weekend for the first time Sept. 25, drama of a different sort is also playing out at Louisiana Downs. With just 12 days of racing left, the closest competition in years for leading rider and trainer promises to go down to the wire.

Richard Eramia and Don Simington have been in a virtual dead heat at the top of the rider standings for weeks now and entered this week with Eramia holding a slim 107-106 lead in number of wins. They have distanced themselves from Louisiana Downs newcomer Jesse Campbell who has had a solid meeting nonetheless with 59 trips to the winner’s circle.

Simington, the two-time defending riding champ, missed the first week of racing here in early May recuperating from a broken collarbone suffered at Delta Downs in late March. Eramia exploited the situation and got off to a hot start and has been at or near the top of the standings all meeting long. Simington generated some momentum early in the summer, and the two have been neck and neck since. Neither appears to hold the upper hand heading into the final stages of the meeting so the battle should continue to the end.

On the trainer’s side of the standings, Michelle Lovelle continues to be very steady and has been atop the standings the entire season. A recent flurry by Tony Richey, however, has the two deadlocked with 34 wins each. Veteran Pat Mouton has been lurking just behind the top spot all meeting long and is close behind with 31 victories in a race that could very well be decided on closing day.

* The annual migration of horses, riders, and trainers northward from Evangeline Downs has begun following that meeting’s conclusion on Labor Day. The influx of new blood has prompted the Louisiana Downs racing secretary, David Heitzmann, to add a 10th race to the daily programs through the conclusion of the current stand Sept. 26. Louisiana will then go through a rare dark period with no Thoroughbred racing in the state until Delta Downs begins its winter meeting October 27.

* Friday’s feature is a competitive entry-level optional claimer at 1 1/16 miles on the grass and drew considerable interest with a field of 12. With the turf rail out 20 feet this week, the field will be limited to 10 starters with two also-eligibles.

Overnight Flight could rule a slight favorite in Friday’s headliner after narrowly missing in a similar spot in his most recent start. Anna Roberts will ride for trainer Brent Morris.