11/30/2001 12:00AM

Commitisize still has his mind on racing


NEW ORLEANS - There is an aging fellow on the Fair Grounds backstretch who has been places none of his colleagues have been. Green pastures, slow mornings in the sun, and mares - mares everywhere. All that's gone for now, and Commitisize, age 6 and approaching his sixth season of racing, is back at the track again.

Commitisize, who was briefly considered a Kentucky Derby candidate in 1998, was retired in the fall of 2000. He is unretired now, and judging from his performance in a comeback race Nov. 22 in a Churchill Downs turf sprint, Commitisize will win some races in this, his second career.

Commitisize, a son of Explodent, left the track to become a stallion in Florida last winter and covered 35 to 40 mares, according to owner Mike Pegram. His foals will begin hitting the ground during this winter's foaling season. There is a reason horses are not generally unretired from stallion duty. Once bred, a horse's mind tends to drift far away from racing, and daily handling by human caregivers becomes more difficult - studdish is the term applied to such behavior.

But Commitisize is a kinder, gentler sort of stallion. "He's without a doubt the neatest horse I've ever been around," Pegram said this week. "Heck, I could put my grandson on his back."

At Wycham House Stud, the farm at which Commitisize stood, his handlers noticed "how well he'd adapted to everything," Pegram said. "We decided to send him to Steve and see what we got."

That would be Steve Asmussen. Asmussen, second-leading trainer in the nation by wins, is training his first horse for Pegram, who has a close relationship with trainer Bob Baffert. But Baffert stables on the West Coast, and Pegram was not optimistic, at least at this point, of Commitisize competing with top California horses. Kevin McKathan, the Florida horseman with whom Pegram often does business, knows Asmussen well and helped arrange the association.

Asmussen, for his part, liked what he saw from Commitisize, who ran a solid race at Churchill at a distance shorter than his best. Commitisize's demeanor has not changed since he returned to the track, and Asmussen said he's an easy horse to get along with. There's no race picked for Commitisize yet, and there's no telling how long his racing career will continue.

Commitisize, in fact, may just be biding time before he returns to his life of leisure.

Rock Slide won't try stakes yet

The six-horse field in Sunday's Tenacious Handicap will not include Rock Slide, who is passing the race, probably in favor of a third-level allowance, trainer Neil Howard said this week. Rock Slide, an A. P. Indy colt out of the extraordinary broodmare Prospector's Delite, took a while to come around and lost six of his first seven starts, but Rock Slide has won his last two starts by a combined 12 lengths.

It was first-level allowance romp by more than 10 lengths over the highly regarded Holiday Thunder this fall that first served notice Rock Slide was an improving horse, and Rock Slide followed that win with a 1 1/4-length score in a second-level allowance at Churchill.

Howard said he thought hard about running Rock Slide in the Tenacious, but with the colt still eligible for allowance conditions, decided to wait for an easier spot.

* Not much has changed since March, when Tom Amoss and Steve Asmussen tied for the training title here. Through Thursday's races both barns were off to a good start, with Asmussen up six wins to five. Asmussen has already started 26 horses at the meet to Amoss's 10, but Amoss was scheduled to run six horses on Saturday's program.