11/20/2007 12:00AM

Claiborne gives Stall a boost in business

EmailNEW ORLEANS - "It's as big a shot in the arm as somebody could ask for." The shot would be the bulk of the horses currently racing for Claiborne Farm, and the arm would be that of Al Stall, one of the perennial leaders among trainers at Fair Grounds.

While Stall has trained horses for Claiborne Farm in past years, the farm has turned over more than half of the horses it has in training, many owned in partnership with Adele Dilschneider.

The new group of horses includes Gradeo2 winner Lattice, who will be pointed toward a turf stakes after the first of the year, and Tend, a 2-year-old Dynaformer colt who will be entered in a first-level allowance.

"I've yet to run one of the new group," Stall said, "but they're all in great condition, coming out of Billy Mott's barn."

The first one of the new group to come out will be Block, who will run in Saturday's Pago Hop, a $60,000 stakes race for 3-year-old fillies.

"We've had horses with Al the last few years, and every one has done well," Claiborne Farm president Seth Hancock said. "He's been lucky for us. He's been a great communicator."

The new bunch join fellow Claiborne/Dilschneider filly Total, coming off six months on the shelf. Total won the Letellier Memorial and was second in the Grade 2 Silverbulletday for Stall at last year's meet. Total, 4, will be pointed toward the Jan. 12 Leggio, with a prep race before.

Also on the comeback is the B. Wayne Hughes-owned Ketchikan, who finished second for Stall in last year's Louisiana Derby. Ketchikan is currently training on a treadmill in a pool in Kentucky, and Stall plans to have him on the premises for the first of the year, pointed toward a race near the end of the meet.

Mouton clearly isn't stalling

Patrick Mouton has moved into new digs with a colorful past, renting Louis Roussel III's personal barn for the Fair Grounds season.

While the rest of the barns on track grounds are owned by Churchill Downs Inc., Roussel retained ownership of his barn when he sold Fair Grounds to the Krantz family in 1990, and maintained his title to the property when the racetrack was sold to Churchill Downs in 2004.

With the rental of Roussel's stalls, Mouton has managed to gather more stalls than any other trainer on the backside, with 44 stalls allocated by Fair Grounds and 38 rented from Roussel.

That should add up to stall space for 82, but Mouton is not permitted to fill stall No. 3 in the Roussel barn. Stall 3, formerly occupied by Roussel's Louisiana Derby, Preakness, and Belmont stakes winner Risen Star, must remain empty, in testament to the great horse.

So Mouton has stall space for 81, and 75 of his horses already are on the track. The extra stalls indicate his plans to claim horses, preferably Louisiana-breds.

"I've got a lot of good Louisiana-breds," he said. "Running in Louisiana, you've got to have them to get in the series of Louisiana-bred stakes."

The large contingent is making its way to the entry box, with Mouton scheduled to send up to 15 horses forward in the first three days of the Fair Grounds meet, more than any other trainer. And though his numerous stalls represent an increased assault on the training title, last year's top three finishers have all returned in force, with winner Tom Amoss, Cody Autrey, and Steven Asmussen expected to contend again.

Asmussen barn talent-heavy

Two of the fastest 2-year-olds in the country are bedded down on the Fair Grounds backstretch, and it's no surprise at which barn they reside, since Asmussen has one of the strongest stables in the country. But don't expect either Pyro or Rated Fiesty to race in New Orleans until after the first of the year.

Pyro, who remains eligible for an entry-level allowance race, still is on holiday following his second-place finish behind War Pass in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile on Oct. 27. Asmussen said Pyro is scheduled to resume training in early December, and that he would be pointed toward the Feb. 9 Risen Star Stakes for his first start of the season.

The filly Rated Fiesty was utterly dominant in her three starts this summer, winning her debut by almost five lengths, beating males in the Kentucky Breeders' Cup by more than four lengths, and winning the July 7 Debutante - the last start of her 2-year-old campaign - by more than six. Asmussen said he has no specific plans for Rated Fiesty, but said she won't race until "after the first of the year."

Then there is the fate of The Big Horse, Curlin, the favorite to be named the 2007 Horse of the Year. His future is tangled in legal wrangling because parties to a successful lawsuit may now own 20 percent of the horse, and whoever owns Curlin will be tempted to retire him to stud. As of this week, Curlin remains at Churchill, and Asmussen's response to questions concerning his future is simple. "I don't know yet," he said.

New rules apt to boost claiming

Changes to rules governing the claiming of horses in Louisiana could boost the rate of claims at a meet already known for an active claim box.

Horses claimed at Fair Grounds no longer have to sit out a 30-day period - known as jail - before they can race again at the level at which they were claimed. While the new owner and trainer of a claimed horse cannot drop that horse below the claim price for 30 days, they are free to run the horse back for the same price at any time.

Also, the amount of sales tax paid on claims has been cut by more than half this meet, from about 9 percent down to about 4 percent. For the biggest claiming owners, that represents a significant savings.

"This is a place where people claim a lot of horses, and this could lead to even more of that," said trainer Bret Calhoun, who plans to stay active in the claiming game.

But the current king of the Fair Grounds claimers is Autrey, who claimed some 75 horses during last year's meet and won 42 races, second to Amoss in the trainer standings.

"I think the new rule helps the owners and the racing office," Autrey said.

Autrey said he is coming into this meet with a full barn of 44 horses, but it doesn't take long for his horses to begin changing hands. Once he starts losing horses via claims, Autrey said, he will be quick to reload.

* The well-respected company Galjour has been replaced as the producer of the Fair Grounds simulcast signal and administrator of the track's audio and video needs this season. Churchill Downs Simulcast Productions takes over for Galjour, which had a long history at Fair Grounds.

- additional reporting by Marcus Hersh