02/18/2010 12:00AM

Country Flavor eyes repeat under lights


NEW ORLEANS - On Fair Grounds's inaugural night-racing program Jan. 15, Country Flavor ran away from seven foes on the way to a 4 3/4-length allowance race victory. This Friday evening, Country Flavor will have a second chance to take flight under the lights.


Having graduated his second allowance condition in just his second attempt, Country Flavor steps into a third-level allowance race also open to $62,500 claimers in race 5 here Friday night. Country Flavor was one of only six horses entered in the 1 1/16-mile dirt race, and his entrymate, Rector, could be scratched. Trainer Greg Geier cross-entered Country Flavor in Saturday's Mineshaft Handicap but said Tuesday that his horse would run on Friday's card, which has a 5 p.m. first post.

Country Flavor, a 4-year-old Jim Tafel homebred by Empire Maker, raced twice at Fair Grounds last season but was a different horse then, both anatomically and aptitudinally: Gelded last summer, Country Flavor turned into a completely different horse. Country Flavor, hapless in the first phase of his career, won his maiden at Arlington in August in his first start after being gelded, and including that victory, he has won three of his last five. After closing quickly for a near miss here Dec. 20, Country Flavor won decisively under the lights while running over a sloppy track last month.

"He's an improving horse," Geier said.

The field also includes Fundy, who edged Country Flavor in December before finishing a distant fifth to Friesan Fire in the Louisiana Handicap. King Dan, who faced tougher foes last out in the Tenacious Handicap, is a front-running win candidate but may take pace pressure from Mad Flatter and/or Tone It Down. A year ago, Mad Flatter would've been a prime contender at this class level, but he has twice endured long injury layoffs and has not looked like his old self in two starts this meeting.

Tone It Down races for the first time since being purchased by Ro Parra's Millennium Farms and James Covello and turned over to trainer Steve Asmussen. Tone It Down finished 12th behind new barn-mate Rachel Alexandra in the Preakness. He didn't race for six months afterward but won his comeback.

"I like how he's trained," Asmussen said. "I think this will be a good measure of where we're at and where we want to be with him."