01/08/2002 1:00AM

Bowman enters a speedball and closer


NEW ORLEANS - If Carl Bowman's speed horse doesn't get the money in the Fair Grounds Thursday feature, maybe his closer will.

Bowman's high-percentage barn has two of the seven entrants in Thursday's ninth race, a 1 1/16-mile route for fourth-level allowance hoses or $100,000 claimers. Astrologist, winner of a Nov. 30 off-the-turf race one class below this, has the early gas, while On Your Mark, fifth in a good race at this class Dec. 17, is a stretch runner with a quick burst of late acceleration.

Astrologist might be in a tough spot. Always close to the early pace in his races, he faces pressure from White Star, another confirmed front-runner, and Fight for Ally, who figures to stay right on top of the leaders and make his bid on the far turn. Bowman's horses will race as separate betting interests.

Fight for Ally, trained by Elliott Walden, comes out of an excellent try here Dec. 23, when he raced near a fast pace and hung on to be third, beaten less than two lengths by the sharp Parade Leader. If jockey Larry Melancon can hold Fight for Ally off the pace battle long enough, he will be tough to collar in the stretch. An Indiana-bred, the 5-year-old Fight for Ally has won the statebred To Much Coffee Stakes the past two years at Hoosier Park.

Should Fight for Ally engage the leaders too early and further quicken the pace, On Your Mark will have a chance to tag the speed in the stretch. On Your Mark had a tough post in his last start, raced in 10th at the half-mile call, and rallied to finish fifth, beaten less than four lengths in the race won by Parade Leader.

The mystery horse is Prospector's Gift, who has won two consecutive races at this meet, both at sprint distances. By the deceased stallion Mr. Prospector out of the Nijinsky mare, Connie's Gift, Prospector's Gift has a big-time pedigree, but the 4-year-old colt has been somewhat slow to come around, languishing in his second-level allowance condition for six starts before breaking through with his pair of local wins.

"We're running back a bit quick, but we want to take a shot stretching him out," Howard said. "There's the sprint stakes this weekend [the Colonel Power], but that might be too much, too soon."

Kalu in co-feature

The co-featured eighth, a third-level allowance-optional claimer on turf, drew an overflow field of 14, including Kalu, unraced since finishing fifth in the Grade 3 Lexington last summer at Belmont. Kalu, who switches trainers from Christophe Clement to Ian Carmichael, won the Grade 3 Hawthorne Derby and the Forerunner Stakes at Keeneland last spring. He makes his first start against older horses.

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