02/05/2002 12:00AM

Dollar Bill not quite there

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NEW ORLEANS - Having lost Unbridled Elaine, his Breeders' Cup Distaff winner, to injury and retirement, trainer Dallas Stewart would have more to look forward to if Dollar Bill were making his 2002 debut Sunday in the Whirlaway Handicap. But Stewart said Tuesday morning that Dollar Bill, unraced since the Travers Stakes in late August, was not yet in physical shape to race this weekend.

"He'll probably need four or five more works before he's ready," Stewart said. Dollar Bill won the Risen Star Stakes here last season and was favored in the Louisiana Derby, in which he nearly fell turning for home but recovered to finish fourth. Trouble dogged Dollar Bill through the first two legs of the Triple Crown, though he managed to finish fourth in the Preakness Stakes and added another fourth-place finish in the Belmont Stakes.

Dollar Bill had surgery to remove a bone chip after finishing third in the Travers, and resumed training last fall. He posted his first official workout here Dec. 15, and around that time Stewart mentioned the possibility of making the Whirlaway, a prep for the Grade 2 New Orleans Handicap. But even with seven works under Dollar Bill's belt, including a strong five furlongs here Saturday in 1:01, Stewart said he didn't even nominate Dollar Bill to the Whirlaway.

"He's only had two five-eighths," said Stewart, expressing his uncertainty about the New Orleans Handicap. "I don't want to make any predictions until we're a little farther down the road. The last week or so he's really come around."

Even with the absence of Dollar Bill, the Whirlaway should be a solid race. Valhol, winner of the Tenacious Handicap in December, has been working strongly for the race, which, among others, also will attract San Pedro, winner of the Louisiana Handicap, and Drewman, a good second in the Diplomat Way Handicap. The Florida-based Keats also is under consideration for the race.

Schedule up in the air for Real Cozzy

Even before learning that Unbridled Elaine and Flute had been retired, trainer Danny Peitz posed a salient question regarding the older filly and mare dirt division, at least in the East and Midwest: "Who's out there?"

The Peitz-trained *, a 4-year-old filly like Unbridled Elaine and Flute, will help fill the void in the division - when she finally gets back into action. Peitz said that Real Cozzy was in steady training on a Florida farm, but that the filly wasn't likely to join his string at Fair Grounds until March 1.

Real Cozzy launched her career here last winter and won her first three races, including a half-length victory in the Fair Grounds Oaks. She flopped in the Fantasy Stakes at Oaklawn, but rebounded to finish second in the Kentucky Oaks, third in the Grade 1 Acorn, and second in the Grade 1 Mother Goose.

Real Cozzy went off form in late summer when back problems that had cropped up in the spring worsened, and Peitz and owners Robert and Lawana Low decided to take the filly out of training and point her for a 4-year-old campaign. Her comeback was delayed when Real Cozzy got sick just after she returned to training, but she has been progressing steadily since then. Peitz wasn't certain that Real Cozzy would make a start at the Fair Grounds meet and hadn't yet begun mapping out a schedule for her.

"The reports I get are good," Peitz said. "Last year we made the races early in the year and then didn't even get to the Breeders' Cup.

Peitz said he had told Robert Low that "this year maybe we'd miss some of the early races and make it to the Breeders' Cup."

Real Cozzy's unraced 3-year-old sister, Prima Green, who also has shown talent, ran well in her schooling race here late last month and is nearing her career debut.

Mardi Gras 'Cap looking strong

Tuesday's Mardi Gras Handicap is ungraded and offers only a $75,000 purse, but it's shaping up as one of the strongest races of the meet. Northcote Road and Where's Taylor, who filled out the place hole in the last two Explosive Bid handicaps, and the crack sprinter Bonapaw were already confirmed for the race, and on Tuesday trainer Dick Lundy said that Griffinite, fifth in last year's Preakness, is joining the fray.

Griffinite, who won the Grade 3 Lafayette at Keeneland, has started twice since Lundy took over his training for owner Ernie Paragallo last fall. He was disqualified from a win in an Aqueduct allowance race, then shipped cross-country, only to be wiped out at the start of the Grade 1 Malibu at Santa Anita, where he finished 10th.

Griffinite has worked twice at Fair Grounds, including a bullet five-furlong breeze in 1:01.40 on Jan. 31, and will work once more this week for the Mardi Gras, which will be his turf debut.

"The way he's bred and the way he moves, I think he'll like the grass," Lundy said. "If we're going to try it, we might as well try it in a race that means something."

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