01/27/2004 1:00AM

Connections fret over Fire Slam's sore foot


NEW ORLEANS - By Tuesday morning, whatever proud memories Fire Slam possessed of winning the Lecomte Stakes were fading into a cloud of annoyance. Fire Slam's left hind foot was painful, yet all that the people around him wanted to do was mess with it.

He had better get used to it. Fire Slam's injured hoof nearly cost him his spot Saturday in the Grade 3, $100,000 Lecomte. All last week, his status was day-to-day, but by Saturday, Fire Slam was sound enough to run, albeit in a bar shoe. A fiberglass patch was applied a few hours before the Lecomte, and Fire Slam went out, ran through the pain, and scored an impressive victory, giving him three wins and a second from four career starts.

Now trainer David Carroll will try to mend the foot and get Fire Slam back on track for the $600,000 Louisiana Derby on March 7. The prognosis is good, but the injury remains ugly. Fire Slam's hoof has a crack more than an inch long, from the bulb of his heel all the way to the toe. The other side of the heel is bruised, and the foot causes him discomfort.

"He's still sore on it," Carroll said Tuesday. "I didn't like what I saw today, but he'll be all right. I have to get the foot dried out and him completely sound before we can patch it again."

When that time comes, perhaps sometime next week, Fire Slam can resume light exercise. And as the foot continues improving, Carroll can ratchet up Fire Slam's training as the Louisiana Derby approaches. It was Carroll's idea all along to skip the Risen Star on Feb. 15 and go into the local derby fresh, and he's not concerned with Fire Slam missing some training.

"It might help him more than anything having a week off right now," Carroll said.

Fire Slam, a Grand Slam colt owned by Stan Fulton, proved two points in the Lecomte: He can win at two turns, and he can overcome adversity. With a promising 3-year-old, both are good things to know.

Lotta Kim's next start undecided

A day after Fire Slam's Lecomte, Lotta Kim won the Tiffany Lass like a filly with some hope of earning a spot in the Kentucky Oaks.

"Before the race, I wasn't thinking that way, but afterwards I did," said Lotta Kim's trainer, Hal Wiggins.

Lotta Kim hadn't raced since finishing second in the Grade 2 Golden Rod last November at Churchill, and her 3-year-old season got off to a rotten start when the horse to her outside broke inward, knocking Lotta Kim sideways. Lotta Kim and jockey Robby Albarado wound up trapped at the rail, steadying briefly entering the first turn, and were locked in most of the trip. When a hole opened turning for home, Lotta Kim smoothly accelerated through it and won by three-quarters of a length while in hand.

Wiggins said he would monitor Lotta Kim's training during the next week before committing her to another race. At issue is whether to run in the Silverbulletday Stakes here Feb. 14 or wait for the Fair Grounds Oaks three weeks later. Both races carry a Grade 2 classification, but the Oaks is worth $300,000, the Silverbulletday $150,000.

Wiggins's other Tiffany Lass starter, All Electric, wound up eighth, but had little chance since she broke from post 12 and was caught wide on a muddy, rail-biased racetrack. Neither Wiggins nor jockey Calvin Borel believes All Electric handles a wet track. All Electric will join Wiggins's Oaklawn string and point for a race there.

Toby's Success breaks track record

Monday, the Fair Grounds track record for 5 1/2 furlongs was lowered from 1:03.26 to 1:03.20 in an entry-level, Louisiana-bred allowance race. A lightning-quick racing surface usually underlies such an occurrence, but not this time. Toby's Success is just a very, very fast horse.

Owned by Murray Valene and trained by Troy Young, the 4-year-old Toby's Success raced only once last year, finishing third in a Louisiana Downs maiden race.

"He had chronic shins, and he ended up with a hairline fracture in one of his cannon bones," Young said. "We gave him time, and he's going sound now."

Going fast, too. Toby's Success won his comeback start in late December, but the effort was solid, not spectacular. What Young knew and others didn't was that his horse was a work short of fitness and battling a lung infection. Everything was rosy Monday, and Toby's Success was sensational, breaking like a rocket and blazing through the stretch under light urging from Albarado, winning by nearly nine lengths.

"The first time I ever worked him, I had a 160-pound exercise rider on him, and he went three-eighths in 32 and four [-fifths seconds]," Young said. "We've really worked on getting this horse to relax."

Toby's Success is headed straight to stakes. Young said he plans to send him to Delta for the $100,000 Louisiana Premier Night Sprint on Feb. 7.

Better to be lucky than good

Vince Marinello, a local broadcaster, handicapper, and part of the Fair Grounds house television team, forged a friendship with the jockey Craig Perret in the early 1970's. For Marinello, part of the friendship involves betting the horses Perret rides - all of them.

Saturday, Perret was listed as the rider on the filly Secret Request in the Ocala Breeders' Sales Distaff. At post time, Secret Request was 75-1, but Marinello didn't let that stop him. He already had several pick-threes ending on Secret Request, and he bet the filly to win and keyed her in exotic wagers. Secret Request rallied from last and won by three-quarters of a length, triggering a five-figure score for Marinello.

Unbeknownst to Marinello, however, Perret had given up the mount earlier in the day to Eibar Coa, who had a call on Secret Request and returned from a trip to Dubai just in time to honor it.

Better to be lucky than good, they say.