Happy Ticket Wins 2006 Debut at Evangeline

Grade I winner Happy Ticket lived up to her billing as she defeated seven overmatched rivals in the $100,000 Louisiana Premiere Night Distaff, one of six stakes events worth $570,000 on Louisiana Premiere Night at Evangeline Downs.

The Opelousaa, La., track filled in for Delta Downs, the usual venue for Louisiana Premier Night that is undergoing repairs after suffering hurricane damage last year.

Owned and bred in Louisiana by Stewart Madison, Happy Ticket's victory was her 11th lifetime in just 14 starts. Trained throughout her career by Andy Leggio Jr., the career earner of more than $842,000 is expected to make her next start in the Azeri Breeders' Cup Stakes (gr. III) at Oaklawn Park March 11.

The daughter of Anet won the one-mile event by 5 1/2 lengths. Robby Albarado rode Happy Ticket ($2.10), the 1-20 favorite, for the first time.

"While I had never ridden her before, I had worked her a few times this winter and knew what was under the hood," he said. "It was cold tonight, and I never really asked her to run and yet her running time for the mile of 1:38 3/5 was only two-fifths of a second off the track record."

Prince T. won the evening's richest race, the $150,000 Louisiana Premiere Night Championship, rewarding his backers with an $11 return. The rapidly improving son of Royal Anthem outfinished a tough customer in Badtotheboneandrew by a neck after a spirited duel in the final furlong. Nitro Chip, the defending champion and race favorite at odds of 6/5, weakened late after attending the early pace.

Prince T. capped a big night for both Leggio and jockey Guy Smith. Along with winning the Championship, they teamed up to win the $100,000 Prince for 3-year-olds with Hud's Playmate ($30.20). In addition to Leggio's win with Happy Ticket, Smith won the $60,000 Matron with Destiny Calls ($3.60).

Other winners on the Premiere Night program were Brandon's Marfa ($16.40) in the $60,000 Sprint and Leesa Lee ($16.60) in the $100,000 Starlet.

(Chart, Equibase)