01/20/2007 1:00AM

Amoss smells opportunity in small field


NEW ORLEANS - Fair Grounds has suffered from a steady barrage of rainstorms in recent weeks, causing a number of turf races to be switched to the main track and creating cards built around dirt sprints that barely fill.

Sunday's card is a case in point. With rain in the forecast, the feature is an entry-level allowance for older fillies and mares, which drew a field of six. Four of the entrants having been racing with allowance company, and two are claimers whose trainers see an opportunity to land a chunk of the video poker-enhanced $44,000 pot.

Tom Amoss is the leading trainer at this meet, partly because of his ability to exploit this kind of a situation. Amoss has entered Sumneytown, whom he claimed for $16,000 on Dec. 30. Sumneytown won that day by 4 3/4 lengths, and the 87 Beyer Speed Figure she earned is the best last-out number in Sunday's field.

Though Sumneytown has faced claiming company in her last two starts, she has run at this allowance level numerous times.

"It's still a tough spot," said Amoss, "but a lot of times you are faced with a situation where you have limited opportunities. This was a spot that was available for her."

Sumneytown won her maiden in her debut, but found her next condition a challenge - she ran six times in first-level allowances before dropping into a $25,000 claimer and winning. After another failed allowance try, she was dropped into a $25,000 claimer at Churchill Downs, and Cody Autrey, who is battling Amoss in the trainer standings, grabbed her. She whistled at odds-on when he wheeled her back for $16,000, and Amoss pounced on the bargain, winning a three-way shake for her.

Trainer Joseph Broussard is making an aggressive move with Yes She's Smooth, who has come to life at this meet after looking like a professional maiden. She ran in 16 consecutive maiden races at 2 and 3 before Broussard dropped her into a $16,000 maiden claimer Dec. 2. She won by more than seven lengths under apprentice rider Joe Talamo, then came back to win a restricted $20,000 claimer by daylight again. Now she's going for her third straight win, and Talamo sticks with her.