07/23/2003 11:00PM

Crowned King on home turf

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Crowned King will finally get to run in his backyard Saturday, when he starts as the 121-pound highweight in the $50,000 Bossier City Handicap at Louisiana Downs.

The last time Crowned King ran at this track was in October, when he won the $40,000 Minstrel.

After that race, Crowned King hit the road, running in stakes at Keeneland, Fair Grounds, Delta Downs, Oaklawn, Lone Star Park and Thistledown.

But now, he is back at his hometrack of Louisiana Downs, where he has been based for the past five months. In the Bossier City, to be run at about 1 1/16 miles on turf, he faces seven other 3-year-olds, including Zydeco Affair, a winner of two turf stakes as a 2-year-old; Gentleman J J, who is shooting for his third straight win; and Iceanwater.

Crowned King last raced June 21, finishing fourth in the Grade 2 Ohio Derby. After that race, he was given time off.

"That trip knocked him down a little bit," said Billy McKeever Jr., who co-owns and trains Crowned King.

Now refreshed, the colt has been working fast for his return. He drilled a bullet six furlongs in 1:13.60 on July 12, then came back and worked four furlongs on turf in 47.80 seconds, around the dogs.

That smart turf work coupled with his record suggests that Crowned King will handle the surface switch Saturday. Although a two-time stakes winner on dirt, he actually picked up his biggest paycheck on turf, when he rallied for a neck win in the $200,000 USA Stakes at Lone Star on May 26.

"He is versatile," said McKeever, who has given the mount to Chandra Rennie. "He'll go grass and dirt."

Iceanwater is a three-time winner on the main track. The surface switch would seem to suit him, too, as the last time he ran on turf he was second in the USA.

"I am very surprised that this horse has run as well as he has on the grass, and it looks like he may be becoming a better grass horse than he is a dirt horse," said Bret Calhoun, who trains Iceanwater for Carl Moore Management.

"I don't think it started out that way. I think he just kind of acquired a taste for the grass."

Calhoun claimed Iceanwater for Moore for $25,000 in January, one start after the colt finished ninth in his turf debut. He will be ridden by Roman Chapa.