12/26/2005 1:00AM

Be sure to keep a dirt winner up your sleeve


The featured ninth race on Wednesday is a high-level allowance for fillies and mares at about one mile on turf.


Close followers of the Fair Grounds meet at Louisiana Downs have begun making dirt backup picks in races originally scheduled for the grass. The last three racing weeks have brought a rash of rain-offs, with turf racing on six of the last 11 days washed away. This week's forecast calls for only a slight chance of storms Tuesday night, but the way things have been going, slight may be enough.

Wednesday's feature is itself the product of an off-the-turf race, the Dec. 17 Furl Sail Handicap. The top two choices Wednesday, Black Rock Road and Rue des Reves, both were entered in the Furl Sail and scratched when the race was moved to dirt. Wednesday, they make up fully one-third of a short field, with a seventh horse, Josh's Madelyn, entered dirt-only. Third last out in the A.B. Leggio at the Fair Grounds meet at Louisiana Downs, Josh's Madelyn would clearly be the one to beat with another move to dirt.

On turf, the pick is Black Rock Road, who will make her first start for trainer Al Stall if she indeed has a chance to run this time. Black Rock Road, bred by Eugene Melnyk and owned by Melnyk Racing Stables, was sent in from Canada expressly for the Furl Sail, but would fit snugly in this allowance spot. A winner in 4 of her 7 starts, Black Rock Road has displayed ample ability and was bet down to 3-1 when she traveled to Churchill Downs for the Mrs. Revere Stakes during the fall of 2004. But she finished sixth in that race and has started only three times in 2005, her development hampered by a temperament that, Stall said before the Furl Sail, runs hot.

But Black Rock Road is almost 5 now, and many difficult fillies settle down with age. The idea is to get Black Rock Road to relax, but she appears to be the controlling speed in Wednesday's race and might end up dawdling on the front end.

Rue des Reves put together a remarkable 2005, rising from obscurity to win seven consecutive races. Wednesday, she seeks to end a three-race skid and is entered under the race's $80,000 claiming option.

Due to Win Again flopped on dirt last out, but is a seven-time winner on the Louisiana Downs grass course. Commercialize exits a much softer spot, but looked good winning on this turf course Dec. 16.