01/02/2002 12:00AM

Carroll aims both barrels at Lecomte


NEW ORLEANS - Last year, trainer Josie Carroll won the Lecomte Stakes, Fair Grounds's first route stakes of the year for 3-year-olds, with Sam Lord's Castle. This season, Carroll may have two chances for a repeat in the race. Both Mapp Hill and Lead by Example, the Carroll-trained one-two finishers in Monday's Sugar Bowl Stakes, could run next in the Lecomte, a one-mile race Jan. 26.

Last and second-to-last early in the Sugar Bowl, Mapp Hill and Lead by Example, who had won the Old Hickory in his last start, finished strongly. Mapp Hill rallied wide, while Lead by Example was stuck in traffic momentarily.

"I'm really happy with the way both horses ran," Carroll said. "It's not just that they were one-two in the race, but that they both were finishing so well."

The Sugar Bowl is at six furlongs, and the Lecomte, a mile race featuring a short stretch run, appeals to trainers who are trying to stretch out a horse with potential stamina limitations. That was the case last year with Sam Lord's Castle, who has settled into a career as a sprinter, and may also hold true for Sugar Bowl winner Mapp Hill, a son of Valid Expectations, whose progeny often excel at shorter distances.

Still, Carroll said that Mapp Hill, who like Sam Lord's Castle is owned by Eugene and Laura Melnyk, did not stamp himself as strictly a sprinter with a fifth-place finish in his only two-turn race, the Nov. 17 Display Stakes at Woodbine. "He got in some trouble there," Carroll said, "and he got really lost after he was knocked around."

As for Lead by Example, Carroll said the colt has improved since winning the Old Hickory, but he, too, is by a sprint sire, and he has failed to win in three races around two turns.

One more for Serena's Tune

Carroll also reported that Serena's Tune, the first foal produced by champion filly Serena's Song, has been booked for a mating with Storm Cat in March. Switching back to the main track after a series of turf sprints, Serena's Tune won a sprint allowance race here last month, earning a Beyer Figure of 98.

Carroll said that the 4-year-old Serena's Tune is likely to start once more at Fair Grounds before the end of her racing career, either in the Feb. 9 Pan Zareta or the March 16 Victoria Lass, both of which are six-furlong dirt races.

Red Mountain returns to turf

San Pedro's win in the Louisiana Handicap here last weekend thrust him to the top of the local handicap division. It also flattered Red Mountain, who beat San Pedro by a half-length here in a Dec. 17 allowance race. But as well as he ran on dirt that day, Red Mountain is headed back to turf Saturday in the $75,000 Colonel E.R. Bradley Handicap.

Red Mountain, who is trained by Hal Wiggins, does his best work at Fair Grounds, and the allowance tally was his first win since taking the Woodchopper Handicap on turf here a year ago. Red Mountain's connections still think the 5-year-old is a better horse on turf than dirt, and that his effort last time out might have been enhanced by a sloppy racetrack.

In the Bradley, Red Mountain will receive a six-pound break in the weights from the starting highweight and likely favorite Northcote Road, who will make his first start since early November. Also expected to run are Candid Glen, Gold Nugget, Just Like Jimmy, Minor Wisdom, Nat's Big Party, and perhaps Neki.

Wrona begins announcing duties

Michael Wrona, the new track announcer at Fair Grounds, called Wednesday's schooling races and will start calling races here Thursday.

Wrona was named the announcer last spring, taking over from Tony Bentley, the longtime voice of Fair Grounds, but has not yet called a race at Fair Grounds this meet. Frank Mirahmadi has called all the races this meet.

Wrona, also the announcer at Lone Star Park, missed the beginning of this meet because he had planned a trip - that subsequently was canceled - to his native Australia during December. Wrona said he plans on announcing for the entire meet next season.

Except for a brief guest appearance at Louisiana Downs, Wrona has not called a race since the Lone Star meet ended in July. "When I find I'm calling races to myself, I know it's time to get started again," Wrona said.

Promising Stidham pair

A pair of Mike Stidham-trained horses made favorable impressions in Wednesday's three training races, especially Ifyouprefersilver, a Silver Deputy filly who drew away late under only minor urging to win the first race.

The track was slow for Wednesday's five-furlong training races. Ifyouprefersilver was clocked in 1:03.51, which was slightly slower than the winning time for the third heat of 1:03.09. In that race, the Stidham-trained Tigress Woods made up a ton of ground after a slow start, and looks like she might be a filly for route races later in the meet.

The second race went to Chandra Prakash, who made the lead with a sharp inside move and bears watching in his debut for trainer Josie Carroll.