01/04/2010 12:00AM

Antrim County looks to bounce back

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NEW ORLEANS - Antrim County brings 56 races worth of experience and a bankroll of more than $400,000 into the eighth race at Fair Grounds on Monday, a one-mile allowance on the turf with a $32,000 claiming option.

It took Antrim County, 7, some time to become the horse he is now. Antrim County's first win didn't come until his eighth race, and he labored 10 more before finding the winner's circle again. But that is all ancient history, as in his last two years he has been in the money in 21 of 27 races.

He has struggled in his last two races, however, and it is unclear which Antrim County will show up Monday.

Two races ago, on Oct. 24, he finished seventh in an allowance over the turf at Keeneland. In his last race, an optional claming race on Nov. 20 at Churchill, he finished fifth, more than nine lengths back.

Those two races were the exception for 2009, however, as the year saw Antrim County take down the $138,000 Claiming Crown Jewel at Canterbury Park and finish second in the Carey Memorial Handicap at Hawthorne as recently as Oct. 3.

"He's coming into it very good, and he should be salty here," said Peaches Geier, assistant to trainer Brett Calhoun. "We waited on this spot to run him in, and he looks like he should be tough."

Eight horses were entered against Antrim County, including two by Steve Asmussen - North Country and Beta Capo.

The classier of the two, which will run uncoupled, is Beta Capo, who is entered for the $32,000 claiming price. Though not the same Beta Capo who won stakes races at three different tracks in 2007-2008, the 6-year-old has been competitive at the optional claiming level. Two races ago, Beta Capo won a $50,000 optional claiming race over the turf at Remington Park, closing from six lengths back to prevail by three-quarters of a length. In his last start, which also came in a Remington optional claimer, Beta Capo ran an even fifth last month.

Unpaid Crusade enters this race off a four-month layoff, with a series of slow works over the Fair Grounds main track. Unpaid Crusade last ran in September at Arlington, finishing second in a pair of $35,000 claiming races on the turf there.