02/08/2005 1:00AM

Warleigh triumphs in Mardi Gras

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Lou Hodges Jr.
Warleigh, Donnie Meche aboard, wins the $50,000 Mardi Gras Handicap Tuesday at Fair Grounds Race Course.

Warleigh turned in a big performance Tuesday at Fair Grounds to win the 62nd running of the at 7 1/2 furlongs on the grass.

Ridden confidently by jockey Donnie Meche, Warleigh went extremely wide on the clubhouse turn outside of favored Shiloh Bound and Excessive Behavior. The trio raced together down the backstretch, with Mr. Sulu and Candid Glen tracking them in fourth and fifth through a half-mile in 48.59 seconds. Warleigh pulled alongside Shiloh Bound on the turn as Excessive Behavior dropped out of contention. When Meche asked him to run at the top of the stretch, Warleigh took off down the center of the track and cantered home 2 3/4 lengths in front of Shiloh Bound, getting the distance in 1:31.68. Social King made a belated bid for third, and Justlikedawg finished fourth.

A 7-year-old trained by Steve Asmussen, Warleigh returned $7.60 to win.

"Steve did a great job getting this horse ready off a layoff," said Meche. "Early in the week they moved the rail [in], so I wanted to stay off the rail where speed has been holding well. I got him to relax and was in good position off the rail, and he just ran a perfect race."