02/28/2003 12:00AM

Badge of Silver perks up for key workout Monday

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NEW ORLEANS - Badge of Silver put in a sharp gallop Friday morning at Fair Grounds and is on target to work here either Sunday or Monday. That breeze is intended to set Badge of Silver up for next Sunday's Grade 2 Louisiana Derby.

Badge of Silver's physical appearance during his gallop this morning starkly contrasted with the horse's condition earlier in the week. After a strong gallop Feb. 22, Badge of Silver "was knocked out," trainer Ronny Werner said.

"He walked for a couple of days, and today he went sharp, Werner added. "I want to see him sharp tomorrow and sharp again the next day, and we'll be right where we want to be. Ideally, we'll work on Monday."

There's a slight chance of rain Monday, and Werner said he would move Badge of Silver's breeze back to Sunday if rain seemed likely.

Badge of Silver hasn't recorded a workout since his 10-length win in the Feb. 16 Risen Star Stakes thrust him squarely into the Kentucky Derby picture. Werner isn't unduly concerned about Badge of Silver's week, saying he often goes easy on horses that he believes already are fit.

"I'm not afraid to back off," he said.

A short field is expected for the Louisiana Derby, with Badge of Silver and Kafwain the star attractions. Also considered probable starters are Funny Cide, Lone Star Sky, and Commander's Affair.

Mineshaft counting calories

Trainers spend plenty of time fretting over their horses' weight, but usually the concern is a horse that weighs too little. Not with Mineshaft. Go to Mineshaft's stall during feeding time, trainer Neil Howard said, and you will find the colt with his head buried in his feed tub.

"You've got to watch him," Howard said. "He gets that feed and he attacks it."

Howard has trained Mineshaft since late last summer, and he's still figuring things out about the horse: how much to feed him and how hard to train him. When Mineshaft runs Sunday in the New Orleans Handicap, Howard hopes he's gotten it all right - at the right time.

"He's 100 percent fit now," Howard said. "He's such a good doer, a big, strong colt. I'm doing more two-minute licks with him, more strong gallops with strong finishes on the end. You kind of do like you do with one of those mile-and-a-half horses."

Mineshaft, a regally bred 4-year-old, won his first three starts in this country before suffering his first loss here in the Whirlaway Handicap. Since he bled that day - "a couple drops," Howard said - Mineshaft will be treated with Lasix for the first time Sunday. And Howard, who won last year's New Orleans Handicap with Parade Leader, thinks Mineshaft can run a more complete race this time.

"I think the race sets up for him if he runs like he did the last time," Howard said. "Then we'll see if he's good enough."

Handpainted to pass Oaks

Trainer Josie Carroll said that despite a good six-furlong work here Friday, Handpainted won't start next Saturday in the Fair Grounds Oaks.

"I don't think she's quite where she needs to be to run with seasoned horses in the Oaks," Carroll said. "She worked really well today, but she needs more seasoning."

Handpainted was one of the top 2-year-old fillies in Canada last year. She hasn't started since September, when she badly cut her leg at the start of her only loss last season. Handpainted has breezed steadily at Fair Grounds, and Carroll said she's basically ready to run, but no spot has been chosen.

"I'll sit down this week with [owner] John Sikura and we'll make some plans," Carroll said.

Carroll also sent out Prince Alphie for a breeze on Friday. Fourth in the Risen Star Stakes, Prince Alphie went five furlongs in 1:01. Carroll said Prince Alphie is possible for the Louisiana Derby, but also could run in the Ocala Breeders' Stakes later this month in Florida.