02/06/2007 1:00AM

Circular Quay should like the long run home


NEW ORLEANS - Michael McCarthy has been a head trainer for less than two months, and already has won a pair of graded stakes races in California with Friendly Island and Ravel.

McCarthy has a good chance to win another on Saturday at Fair Grounds with Circular Quay, who probably will be favored in the Grade 3 Risen Star Stakes. And here's where caveats are required. Come Sunday morning, McCarthy no longer will be Circular Quay's trainer of record, since trainer Todd Pletcher's 45-day suspension for a medication violation ends Friday - too late to be listed as Circular Quay's trainer in the Risen Star, which was drawn on Monday - and McCarthy will revert to his position as a Pletcher assistant. Moreover, it is Pletcher who will come to New Orleans from Florida to saddle Circular Quay, who has been training with McCarthy over the synthetic racing surface at Hollywood Park.

McCarthy, channeling Pletcher, zeroed in on the main reason Circular Quay, an Eclipse Award finalist for champion 2-year-old, is starting his campaign in New Orleans rather than California.

"I think his running style will be conducive to the long stretch at Fair Grounds," McCarthy said.

Circular Quay uses all the stretch he can get. In races both at one turn and two, Circular Quay drops well off the pace, gains momentum on the far turn, and does his best running in the stretch. And from the look of things, he is far from a flashy work horse: Circular Quay's string of workouts at Hollywood all have produced moderate times. His Feb. 4 breeze was ranked 50th of 51 five-furlong breezes, and his work Jan. 28 was 44th of 60 five-furlong works. McCarthy, however, said Circular Quay has trained well, and looks much like the horse seen last year on traditional dirt tracks.

"He's a horse that's fairly straightforward in the morning," McCarthy said. "I haven't seen a whole lot of difference from Churchill to here."

Circular Quay is one of three Californians - along with Notional and Spankey Come Home - scheduled to ship Wednesday. Buffalo Man and Imawildandcrazyguy come Thursday from Florida. A field of 14 is entered in the Risen Star.

High Heels good to go in Silverbulletday

Training at Oaklawn Park has been regularly interrupted by freezing conditions, but trainer Gary Hartlage said Tuesday that High Heels is ready for her trip to New Orleans for Saturday's Silverbulletday Stakes.

"She trains hard, and she's pretty hyper," Hartlage said from Arkansas. "She keeps herself fit. She's going good, and we're going to ship in Friday."

A fit, ready High Heels is a threat to win the Grade 3, $200,000 Silverbulletday Stakes. Bred and owned by Anita Ebert, High Heels is a daughter of the young sire E Dubai and looks like one of the best horses Hartlage has had in years. As a maiden, she nearly won the Ellis Park Debutante last summer, and got even better in the fall. After clearing the maiden ranks in a seven-furlong race, High Heels finished a solid third in the Grade 2 Golden Rod at Churchill, her first start in a two-turn dirt race. Hartlage brought her back in a Jan. 21 two-turn allowance race at Oaklawn, and High Heels won by eight lengths while never really asked by Hartlage's regular rider, Joe Johnson.

"It was a pretty awesome race," Hartlage said. "She always showed she was a pretty good filly. That's why I ran her in the Golden Rod.

"I think Saturday will tell us where we are, but if she's as good as I think she is, she belongs in there."

High Heels was one of nine entered in the Silverbulletday, and despite her obvious talent might be fourth choice in the race behind Total, Appealing Zophie, and Get Ready Bertie.

Miss Atlantic City sidelined

Miss Atlantic City, who won the $291,000 Delta Princess over Appealing Zophie in her most recent start, is out of action - perhaps until the fall - with an ankle injury, trainer Keith Desormeaux said Tuesday. A minor illness forced Miss Atlantic City from the Tiffany Lass Stakes in early January, and she hurt herself during a routine gallop while preparing for a prospective start in the Silverbulletday, Desormeaux said.

Royal Leah rested for feature

Like so many turf horses this wet winter, Royal Leah was scratched from an off-the-turf race this meet, but that might been a good thing in the long run.

"Her forced little vacation has done her well," trainer Mike Stidham said.

With no rain in the forecast, Royal Leah should make her intended start in the featured ninth race Thursday. She was one of 10 entered in a third-level allowance carded for 1 1/16 miles. Creative Miss starts only on dirt.

Royal Leah was a 20-1 shot two races ago when she won a second-level turf allowance at Churchill. Thursday, in a race lacking early pace, she should be prominently placed, and a return to her Churchill form would make her difficult to beat.

Wilson okay after spill

Jockey Emma Wilson sustained no serious injuries in a nasty spill Monday. Wilson's mount in the ninth race, Sweetening, took a bad step on the far turn of a turf race and went down, throwing Wilson into an inner-turf-rail post. Sweetening briefly ran loose and was caught in front of the stands.

Pick three rule changed

As of Friday, Fair Grounds will employ new rules governing pick three wagers. If a horse used in a pick three is scratched before the first leg of the wager, the bet is refunded. If a horse is scratched after the first leg of the bet, a consolation pick three will be paid to holders of tickets including two winners and the scratched horse from the other race in the sequence.