01/10/2006 1:00AM

Closer look reveals sharp horse at price


BOSSIER CITY, La. - The 4-year-old filly Homecoming last started in a stakes race at Hollywood Park. Commercialize raced a couple of times at Del Mar last summer. Baena and Legislady have held their own in Churchill Downs turf allowance races. But at the Fair Grounds meet at Louisiana Downs, it has paid to dig a little deeper, scrutinize a little longer. Long-priced winners have become standard fare here this winter, and Thursday's featured 10th race - a second-level turf allowance with a $40,000 claiming option - may not go to the most obvious horses on paper.

Consider, for instance, Maggio. No major racing venues appear in her running lines. She was bred in Arkansas, the product of a mating between the little-known sire Joy's Report and a mare by Shamtastic named Maggie Ann.

"I had her mama," said Jerry Hardin, who trains Maggio and owns a part of her as well. "She was an old cheap mare, but she loved the grass, and I hope this filly does, too."

won her most recent start after finishing second here in late November. She has never raced beyond seven furlongs, never set foot on a turf course, but Maggio has finished well in dirt sprints and clearly is sharp right now.

"If this filly likes the grass, she'll run real good," Hardin said. "I don't think the distance is going to be a problem for her. The old mare would go a mile and an eighth on the grass."

is the only other filly in an overflow field to have won a race at this meet, and she also looks like and under-the-radar contender. From the barn of Kenny Smith, Ashley's Art is by Theatrical, whose offspring typically mature late. Ashley's Art tried all last year to win an entry-level allowance race and failed; the fact she did so with authority here Dec. 1 suggests an improving horse. It's also worth nothing that Ashley's Art's connections nominated her to Saturday's Bayou Breeders' Cup Handicap.

also was nominated to the Bayou, but trainer Al Stall entered her instead in the Thursday allowance, and with Robby Albarado named to ride, Homecoming may be the favorite. She won her maiden sprinting on dirt last June at Hollywood Park and cleared her first allowance condition in a Del Mar turf race in September. But Homecoming had an ideal setup in that victory and is starting over now for a new outfit on a new circuit.