01/22/2003 1:00AM

Achnasheen deserves a look


NEW ORLEANS - Achnasheen won her return race in her last start. On Friday at Fair Grounds she must beat a field filled with comeback horses.

Achnasheen faces seven opponents in Friday's ninth race, a first-level allowance for 3-year-old fillies at about 5 1/2 furlongs on turf. The low-level feature is bolstered by the seventh race, a 3-year-old maiden sprint filled with live prospects.

Achnasheen, a Mutakddim filly owned by Sterling Stud and trained by Mitch Shirota, made her debut on Aug. 10 at Ellis Park. Achnasheen was knocked off stride at the start, pushed wide when she made a run at the leaders, but still finished second, almost five lengths in front of the show horse. And since that race's winner, Fabulous Brush, turned out to be useful, it seemed like Achnasheen had shown something.

Then came a long layoff, but there was no mistaking the seriousness of Achnasheen's Fair Grounds workouts - a half-mile in a bullet 48.20 seconds, three-eighths in a bullet 36. It looked like Achnasheen was ready for her comeback race here on Jan. 6, and she was. Far back early, she plowed through on the rail and was up for a three-quarter-length win in a turf race at Thursday's distance.

The performance wasn't stunning, but neither are the horses she meets on Friday, the best of which have not recently raced. Run Sarah Run won her career debut at Lone Star Park by more than three lengths and came back to finish a close fourth in a stakes race, but that was back in July. Run Sarah Run has worked well for her comeback, however, and her pedigree suggests turf as a strong option.

Graduation time

Eight horses were entered in the seventh, the six-furlong maiden race, and seven of them have never started. The lone exception is Cat's Craft, who showed decent speed and ran evenly to finish fourth in a Dec. 28 race here.

Three horses showed obvious promise in their schooling races here. Prairie Slam looped his field from the quarter pole to the finish and won with something left, but he has drawn the disadvantageous rail post. Outside of him is Ashmore, who may have had the best early speed of any schooling-race horse here this meet when he won a practice race on Jan. 8. Behind Ashmore were two horses that finished strongly, including Political Risk, who is also entered.

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