01/23/2004 1:00AM

Badge of Silver wins return

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Badge of Silver returned to the races with a bang on Friday at Fair Grounds, winning a six-furlong optional claiming race by a widening 2 3/4 lengths.

A top 3-year-old early last year when he won the Grade 3 Risen Star in his third career start, Badge of Silver had not run since suffering a displaced palate in the Louisiana Derby last March 9. He had swooped by Funny Cide, Peace Rules, and Kafwain in the stretch that day, looking like a winner, but then slowed abruptly to finish sixth. A few weeks later, he broke a cannon bone, and his Triple Crown year was over.

Badge of Silver worked a bullet six furlongs in 1:12.80 on Jan. 8 at Fair Grounds, and trainer Ronny Werner began looking for a place for him to run.

Under regular rider Robby Albarado, Badge of Silver broke well on Friday and sprinted clear in the field of six, running the first quarter-mile in 22.47 seconds and the half-mile in 45.84. Straightening for home, Captain Thunder advanced to Badge of Silver's outside flank and stayed there for several strides. But Badge of Silver then began to pull away under a hand ride.

Captain Thunder finished second, 5 3/4 lengths ahead of Neon Shadow in third.

Badge of Silver was timed in 1:08.88, 0.88 seconds off the track record, and paid $2.80.