03/26/2004 12:00AM

Destiny Calls on the way up


With another dull race on Friday at Fair Grounds, the stalwart Louisiana-bred grass horse Coach Rags might have seen his last of the racetrack. But owner Vickie Krantz and trainer Gary Palmisano already have a successor in the barn.

has won 6 of her 9 career starts, finishing second two other times, and for all that accomplishment, the 4-year-old filly still appears to be scratching the surface of her ability. There might be more to come Sunday - closing day at Fair Grounds - when Destiny Calls starts as a heavy favorite in the Red Camelia Handicap.

A short field makes her task easier. Only five were entered in the $100,000 Red Camelia, a grass race at about one mile, and all have lost to Destiny Calls at some point this winter.

Coach Rags made his mark as a stone closer. Each winter his long chestnut frame would gather force at the quarter pole and come storming down the stretch of the Fair Grounds turf course. Destiny Calls, made much differently from her stablemate, employs an entirely different style. Destiny Calls has speed - speed to have won twice in dirt sprints - and she uses it running long on grass.

By the Kentucky stallion With Approval and out of a mare by Miswaki, Destiny Calls was cut out to be a turf horse: After winning just 1 of 3 on the grass last year, she looked like one March 6 at Fair Grounds.

The race was merely a high-end statebred allowance, but Destiny Calls beat rivals like the ones she faces in the Red Camelia, and she beat them easily. Going straight to the front under Shane Sellers, her rider again Sunday, Destiny Calls dawdled through an opening quarter-mile in 25 seconds, and was long gone thereafter.

The other four in the Red Camelia face a serious problem Sunday: There is no more speed to go with Destiny Calls this time than there was in the allowance race. Even if K Brown, second to Destiny Calls last out, elects to push, Destiny Calls can taken back a bit off a pace that becomes too hot. Autobesarah and Fuse It want to come from off the pace, and Prized Amberpro is not really even a grass horse.

Prized Amberpro has done everything else in a long, fruitful career that has wound from maiden claiming to a half-million-dollar bankroll. But even on dirt, she and Fuse It, another successful racemare, might have to make way for the new boss, Destiny Calls.