12/11/2004 1:00AM

Witt Ante in front all the way


NEW ORLEANS - Witt Ante led every step of the way Saturday at Fair Grounds to win the $150,000 at 8-1 odds.

The race was the featured event of the $1 million Louisiana Champions Day card, which consisted of seven Thoroughbred stakes and three Quarter Horse stakes for statebreds.

Jockey Tracy Hebert took advantage of a very fast surface and sent his horse right to the lead going into the clubhouse turn. After going with Witt Ante in the opening furlong aboard Prince Slew, jockey Corey Lanerie elected to take back. Witt Ante forged ahead to a seven-length lead as he sped through a quarter-mile in 23.26 seconds and a half in 46.49.

Meanwhile, Prince Slew raced outside of Spritely Walker, followed by Nitro Chip, who broke awkwardly. Hebert kept after his mount as the others closed in on the far turn, and as they turned for home, Screen Idol, Spritely Walker, and Meteor Impact all moved into contention.

But Witt Ante was not through. He dug in determinedly under a tremendous effort from Hebert through the stretch. The jockey smoothly switched whip hands from left to right, cracking his mount 18 times as he kept him to the drive. Inside the final furlong it was clear that Screen Idol, in an all-out drive under Gerard Melancon, was not getting to the winner. Witt Ante finished 2 1/2 lengths clear of Screen Idol, who held off Spritely Walker by 1 3/4 lengths.

Meteor Impact was another head back in fourth. Walk in the Snow, Nitro Chip, and Prince Slew completed the order of finish.

Witt Ante, a 4-year-old chestnut gelding by Upping the Ante, covered the Classic's 1 1/8 miles in 1:52 and paid $18.60 to win. He is owned by David Beard and trained by Larry Robideaux Jr.