01/11/2007 1:00AM

Above the Wind ready to defend title


OLDSMAR Fla. - Imagine a 65-year-old man lining up against top track stars in their 20's and 30's in a 100-yard dash and having a better than even chance of beating them.

Racing fans will get a chance to see the equine equivalent of such a scenario Saturday at Tampa Bay Downs when Above the Wind, the ageless wonder from the barn of trainer Ronald Allen Sr., goes after his fourth Pelican Stakes win at the ripe old age of 10 . He will face 13 rivals in the $60,000 Pelican at six furlongs.

Mike Allen will handle Above the Wind for his father when the Michigan-bred makes his first start since July on Saturday. While Above the Wind has been off a while, he has been training sharply over the Tampa strip, posting three black-letter workouts since Dec. 21, including a five-furlong breeze in 1:00 and a six-furlong drill of 1:14.20.

Ronald Allen Sr. says the old warrior doesn't look as though he's lost a step with another passing year.

"He's still doing good and still loves to train," Allen said Thursday, "and he just loves the Tampa Bay Downs track. He's won other places, but this is definitely his best track.

"I don't know what it is about him but he still has that competitive fire," Allen added, "he's like Satchel Paige, he just loves to compete. We back off every year when it's obvious he needs some time but when he's fresh and right he's a tough old guy."

There are several intriguing challengers entered against Above the Wind, topped by the speedy Guapeton. Guapeton has won three of his five career starts and tuned up for the Pelican with an impressive 4 1/4-length win over allowance company here on opening day.

Also deserving of attention is Put Back the Shu from the barn of Lynn Scace. Put Back the Shu won an overnight stakes at the Meadowlands last fall and also finished second in the Select at Monmouth earlier in the year.

Out for a Spin has won two straight since being claimed by his present connections, including a win in the $100,000 Lightning Jet over Illinois-breds at Hawthorne.

Speed bias may be weakening

Those who attempt to get a feel of track biases and tendencies would be well advised to play close attention to the races over the weekend as clear, bright skies and strong winds forecast for the next few days may well bring what has been a speed-favoring strip closer to normal.

Cloudy and rainy weather since the first of the year put more moisture than normal into the strip and made the racing surface conducive to speed and inside posts for the week beginning Jan. 3. For example, on the Jan. 4 card, 9 of the 10 races were won by horses who were either on the lead, contending for the lead, or gaining ground along the inside turning into the stretch.

With strong winds and sunny skies on Thursday the track looked as though it might be returning to a strip where stalkers and closers and horses rallying from the outside would not be at a distinct disadvantage.