02/13/2004 12:00AM

Big colt's talent nothing to laugh at


NEW ORLEANS - Each winter and spring, Steve Wren spends hours studying the videotape of horses selling at 2-year-old in training auctions. If a horse moves smoothly, Wren takes note, and after going through the tape, he assembles a short list of prospects. On the ground, physical inspections are made, and the horses that pass final muster will get a bid from Wren when they pass through the sales ring.

Errors in judgment are difficult to accept. For 15 years, Wren has trained privately for Hayes and Kaaren Biggs, though Hayes Biggs has died. Wren picks out young horses for purchase each season, but buys only four or five.

"If you get one good one a year, you're doing all right," Wren said. "When you buy four to five horses a year, and that's how you replenish your stock, it can be tough."

Last year, Wren found a good one. For $75,000, Kaaren Biggs bought Mr. Jester from the Ocala Breeders' Sale last April. So far, Mr. Jester has earned more than $730,000, and he is a leading regional hope for this year's Triple Crown.

Mr. Jester, by Silver Deputy and out of a Fappiano mare, is a striking animal. He is tall and long-barreled, a body designed for distance, and appears to be in excellent condition at the moment.

"When you see him on the track, he kind of stands out, and I'm not saying that just because I train the horse," Wren said. "If you didn't take notice of him, you wouldn't have much of an eye for a horse."

Mr. Jester turned in a quick workout at the breeze-up sale where he was purchased, but unlike many quick 2-year-old sales horses, he had few issues when Wren brought him home.

"This colt was very intelligent and well broken," Wren said. "He didn't have any problems with him from day one."

Mr. Jester won his career debut in a five-furlong maiden race by more than nine lengths, but he is far from a one-dimensional speed horse. Mr. Jester is comfortable settling early in a race and coming with one run. And he also likes shipping. Mr. Jester traveled from Oaklawn Park to Fair Grounds on Wednesday, and got his first feel for the Fair Grounds surface on Friday, when he galloped a mile and jogged a mile.

"You have a lot of mixed emotions with a horse like this," Wren said. "Of course, you want to have one like this, but by the same token, I try not to get too emotional about it. I wash out pretty easy. I try to let the horse do his business and stay out of his way."

All's well with Allspice

Allspice lost her comeback race Thursday at Fair Grounds, but the positive nature of her performance overshadowed the defeat. Racing for the first time since she finished fifth last April in the Grade 1 Ashland, Allspice returned in a 5 1/2-furlong allowance race that was moved from turf to dirt because of wet conditions. Allspice tracked a moderate pace and was poised to move to the lead in the stretch, but was blocked behind horses and got out too late. When clear, she quickly rallied, finishing second by a half-length to a filly named Comalagold, while galloping out many lengths in front of the field.

Jockey Robby Albarado praised Allspice after the race. "When Robby came back, he said, 'I've been on some good horses, and she galloped out like a good horse does,' " said trainer Greg Geier.

Allspice ate with gusto Thursday night and appeared bright Friday morning, signs she had come out of the race well. The sprint comeback behind her, Allspice could run back in a two-turn allowance race, her next step on the way back to stakes racing.

"Hopefully, we'll get an allowance race on the way to Keeneland or Churchill, or wherever she's going to run," Geier said.

Handpainted fine after Pan Zareta victory

Handpainted came out of her win last weekend in the Pan Zareta Handicap in good physical condition, but her schedule is uncertain, trainer Josie Carroll said.

Making her first start since last spring, Handpainted won the Pan Zareta by 1 1/2 lengths over Tina Bull. That race was at six furlongs, but Handpainted is bred for routes, and Carroll said there's a good chance Handpainted will make her next start at two turns.

"I was really pleased she bounced back so well after running like that after a long layoff," Carroll said. "We'll make sure to give her plenty of time so that she's 100 percent the next time she runs."

* Herculated, a promising young grass horse, worked a half-mile in 49.60 seconds on Friday. Herculated has won two turf races at this meet since coming back from a lengthy layoff, and is being seriously considered for the $50,000 Mardi Gras Handicap on Feb. 24.