12/12/2007 1:00AM

Dutrow expecting minimal presence

EmailRick Dutrow was billed going into this Fair Grounds season as one of several prominent trainers whose new or returning strings in New Orleans promised to boost the quality of the racing. But more than three weeks into the meet, Dutrow is just now getting around to sending out his first Fair Grounds starter, a horse named Salute the Count, who looks like the horse to beat in Friday's seventh race, a $50,000 turf-sprint claimer. And there may not be many more to come.

Dutrow, who ranks fifth nationally in 2007 earnings and 10th in wins, was given only 15 stalls for the Fair Grounds season, after planning on having 30, and as of this week, only 12 of those stalls housed horses. Word around Fair Grounds opening week was that Dutrow had been allotted less space because he didn't want to send his entire string until after the Fair Grounds season was well under way, and with stalls at a premium, the track had many trainers eagerly awaiting any open units.

Dutrow, reached by phone Wednesday, said he had been up front with Fair Grounds about his intentions from the start, when he was initially allotted 30 stalls. He also expressed disappointment that races to which he had pointed the first 10 horses he sent to New Orleans never materialized.

"I'm kind of not happy with that whole scene," Dutrow said. "Not happy at all."

Dutrow said he would enter the odd horse as suitable spots arose at Fair Grounds, but he has shipped some horses out of New Orleans and into the Palm Meadows training center in Florida. He suggested that his presence during the rest of the Fair Grounds meet would be minimal.

Dutrow's brother, Chip, is overseeing his stock at Fair Grounds.

Gabriel enjoys solid start

Leo Gabriel isn't saying he's recently laid hands on anything like a Grade 1 kind of horse. But if he did, Gabriel, a native of the New Orleans metro area, would like nothing better - nothing at all - than to win the best races at the Fair Grounds meet.

"If I could win one race before I get out of this business, it'd be either the Louisiana Derby or the New Orleans Handicap," Gabriel said. "The Kentucky Derby would be nice, but it'd be a lot sweeter to win the Louisiana Derby as far as I'm concerned."

Such notions are the stuff of pleasant daydreams for a smaller-scale outfit like Gabriel's, but his start to the Fair Grounds meet has been, well, pretty dreamy, too. Gabriel has sent out a grand total of four horses so far - all claimers - but three of them have won. That gives Gabriel, the son of trainer Leo Gabriel Sr., sole possession of 10th place in the trainer standings - for now.

"If we can keep the snowball going, it'd be nice, but with little outfits it's hard," Gabriel said. "If you run a horse, you win, and you run him back in the same spot, he's gone - claimed. Those big outfits, they don't mind turning them over, but we fall in love with them and we'd like to keep them."

While Gabriel's current horses have regularly been in the Fair Grounds winner's circle this meet, one of his former horses has his name in the Fair Grounds record book: That would be Great Bloom, who still holds the turf-course record for "about" one mile, a mark he set in 2004.

Diliberto attracts field of 10

An eclectic field of 10 horses has been entered in Saturday's Buddy Diliberto Memorial Handicap, though Going Wild will start only if the 1 1/16-mile grass race is rained onto the main track.

The race includes Storm Treasure, a winner of two straight turf allowance races in Kentucky; Save Big Money, another sharp Kentucky allowance winner; Grade 3 winner Ascertain; and a very interesting Canadian horse named Sterwins.

Graded winner Baghdaria retired

The graded-stakes-winning mare Baghdaria has been retired from racing and will be bred this winter, trainer Tom Amoss said Wednesday. Badgdaria saw limited action this year and made only one start this past fall - in a Presque Isle Downs allowance race - after coming back from a long layoff.

"She's a multiple graded-stakes winner, multiple graded-stakes-placed, and we felt the time was right to make her a mama," Amoss said.