01/03/2007 1:00AM

Blasi going to bench for 3-year-old stakes


The Scott Blasi barn - which will turn back into the Steve Asmussen barn next week - is sorting through its early-season 3-year-olds, picking out stakes spots for the more advanced and talented colts and fillies. Round one of Fair Grounds's 3-year-old stakes series, the Lecomte for males and the Tiffany Lass for females, is next Saturday, and Blasi said Tuesday that the stable should have a horse for both races - just not any of the best-known horses.

Appealing Zophie seemed like a natural candidate for the one-mile Tiffany Lass, but Blasi said wet weather has cost Appealing Zophie important training time, and that she would not run in the Tiffany Lass. Appealing Zophie won the Grade 1 Spinaway at Saratoga, and was fourth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies before finishing her 2-year-old season with a second as the heavy favorite in the Delta Princess Stakes. Blasi said she would be pointed to the Feb. 10 Silverbulletday, and that Jersey Bond, winner of a Fair Grounds maiden race in her career debut, might get a start in the Tiffany Lass.

Blasi also confirmed Beta Capo as a starter in the Lecomte after Beta Capo turned in a bullet five-furlong work in 1:00.60 on Tuesday. Zanjero - who was excluded from the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, then won a Churchill entry-level allowance before finishing second to Nobiz Like Shobiz in the Remsen - also worked Tuesday, but his was a much slower breeze, four furlongs in 52 seconds, and Zanjero is being aimed at the Feb. 10 Risen Star.

Yet to work this winter but galloping at Fair Grounds is the barn's top 2-year-old prospect, Tiz Wonderful, who went unbeaten in three starts at 2, winning both of Churchill's fall 2-year-old male stakes, the Iroquois and the Kentucky Jockey Club.

"I'd say he's probably a week to two weeks away from working," Blasi said. "It's too early to say right now where he'd run."

Change Up points for Silverbulletday

Another 3-year-old filly who will not race in the Tiffany Lass is Change Up, who has posted two recent works after getting a three-week break after finishing second in the Grade 2 Golden Rod on Nov. 25 at Churchill.

"I didn't even nominate her to the Tiffany Lass," said trainer Steve Flint. "I'm going to try a little different route with her. We're probably going to go to the [Silverbulletday] with her. I'm probably going to run Get Ready Bertie in the [Tiffany Lass]."

Change Up won the Pocahontas at Churchill by two lengths before the Golden Rod, showing in both races an ability to rate that had been absent earlier in her season. Flint said Change Up "was pretty knocked out" after the Golden Rod, which is why she got a break, but she has turned in a pair of quick half-mile breezes since getting back to serious training.

"Just a couple maintenance halves to see where we are," Flint said. "We've got five weeks to get her ready, so we don't have to push or anything."

Bad weather may be hurting business

Fair Grounds is in the midst of a downward trend in business compared to the meet two years ago in New Orleans, with declines in handle both ontrack and overall during the last several programs. (Last year's meet was run at Louisiana Downs because of damage from Hurricane Katrina.) But poor weather could be the prime mover in the declines, with races taken off turf seven of the last eight racing days.

During those eight days, from Dec. 22 to Jan. 1, ontrack handle averaged $213,620, down about 9 percent from the $234,847 averaged during the final seven days of December 2004 and Jan. 1, 2005. Total handle, however, fell more sharply, down some 19 percent from $4,468,428 two years ago to $3,641,158 this year. The track was able to conduct turf racing on six of the eight days two years ago.

Entries also were down on several recent cards. Saturday's races are decidedly lower-class for a weekend program, with four maiden claimers, two conditioned claimers, and a $5,000 claimer carded along with a Louisiana-bred allowance, an open second-level allowance, and the Louisiana BC Handicap, which drew just six horses. Worse, rain is forecast from Thursday through Sunday.

Two allowances top Friday card

A pair of entry-level allowance races, one for 3-year-old fillies at one mile on turf, the other for older females at 5 1/2 furlongs on dirt, highlight the Friday program.

The 3-year-old filly race, which stands a good chance of being moved to the main track because of rain, drew just seven horses, with Catching and Golden Possum the likely favorites. The other race got eight entries, including two horses from the barn of Tom Amoss. One of the Amoss horses, Burletta, looks like the favorite in an evenly matched field.