12/02/2008 12:00AM

Allowance offers prep for Furl Sail

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NEW ORLEANS - When the opening-day Blushing K.D. Handicap was moved from turf to dirt, it left three talented horses looking for a tune-up before the Furl Sail Handicap on Dec. 27.

The result is an unusually strong field of seven fillies and mares running in Thursday's eighth race, a $50,000, 1 1/16-mile open allowance on turf.

The three scratched entrants who return in this one are Whisper to Me, Cat Hop, and You Dancing Devil.

You Dancing Devil has the dual benefits of cutting back to her ideal distance and getting back her regular rider, James Graham.

Her last race was an experiment on the part of her connections, an attempt to go 1 1/2 miles in the Dowager Stakes at Keeneland.

"We were hoping that she would take back, but she laid up second until she got to a mile and then she chucked it," trainer Neil Pessin said. "We know now to keep her between seven and a half furlongs and a mile and an eighth, preferably a mile and a sixteenth."

She'll get the 1 1/16 miles and will be reunited with Graham, her regular rider for the six starts before the failed attempt at 1 1/2 miles. Graham was aboard for two victories, including a win in the Nancy A. Vanier Illinois Owners Stakes.

The decision to scratch Whisper to Me from the Blushing K.D. was easy for trainer Malcolm Pierce.

"She's not any kind of a dirt horse," Pierce said. "And I think she's a little better on the tighter turn inner courses, like the turf at Keeneland and Fair Grounds."

Whisper to Me has been consistent since Pierce put her back on the turf four races ago, following an experiment with the Polytrack at Woodbine. In her four races since, she has victory and two seconds. Her most recent effort was an Oct. 10 allowance win at Keeneland, when she came from 10 lengths back to get a head in front.

Waiting for the three who scratched are four other real contenders, including the Larry Jones-trained Shytoe Lafeet. Lightly raced in 2008, she finished third in the 2007 Furl Sail, and Jones has her pointed that way again.

Her last race, an 11th-place finish in the Grade 3 Violet at the Meadowlands, was the only time in 10 tries at 1 1/16 miles that she finished out of the money. Le Cordon Bleu, who returns here as well, finished second in the Violet.