12/10/2008 12:00AM

Allowance may preview stakes ahead


NEW ORLEANS - It's hard not to think a few steps ahead when one looks at the horses entered in Thursday's sixth race at Fair Grounds.

One step ahead would be the Grade 3 Lecomte, looming Jan. 10. Two steps ahead would be February's Grade 3 Risen Star, and a third step would be March's Grade 2 Louisiana Derby.

But we are not there. We are in a first-level allowance race in December, at a mile on the dirt, for a purse of $44,000, with nine 2-year-olds entered.

The possibilities are there: Friesan Fire, Indygo Mountain, Map of the World - horses whose connections are thinking about bigger races.

Friesan Fire already has black type, and the beginning of a graded stakes earnings account, by virtue of his third-place finish in the Grade 2 Futurity at Belmont, on Sept. 13. Since then, Friesan Fire came home fourth, beaten 7 1/4 lengths, in the Grade 3 Nashua. Though the Nashua trip was wide, trainer Larry Jones attributes the loss to Friesan Fire's lack of focus.

"He wasn't enthused in those last two races, really, not even in his first race, the race he won," said Jones. "He wasn't focusing, so we've added blinkers."

Jones thinks the blinkers and Friesan Fire's strong works have him more focused and ready to race. He was also hoping to have Friesan Fire run against softer competition than his last two efforts in graded stakes.

"His last work ought to have him sitting on a good race," said Jones. "Our plan was to drop back and give him an easier spot , though it doesn't look like we've found it with Indygo Mountain there next to him."

Indygo Mountain will break from the 8 post, just to Friesan Fire's outside.

Indygo Mountain comes into this race after winning his maiden on his second attempt, a mile maiden special weight at Churchill Downs on Nov. 1. He was dominant in that effort, stalking the pace before taking over around the turn, and winning by 6 1/4 lengths.

"We'd like to see him learn to settle and sit off the pace a little," said trainer Bret Calhoun.

And for those who are inclined to invest too much stock into a first-level allowance race in December, Calhoun offered a reality check.

"It's a good race, with nice horses, and everybody will get a good sense of where their horses are," said Calhoun. "But this isn't a must-win race for us."