02/25/2004 12:00AM

Even in dirt sprint, Gimme an A may win


NEW ORLEANS - It might be at the wrong distance, perhaps even on the wrong surface, but Friday's featured ninth race is the spot for Gimme an A.

His trainer, Jeff Thornbury, thinks might turn out to be a decent turf route horse. The Friday race is at six furlongs on dirt, but that might not get Gimme an A beat. A late-starting 5-year-old gelding, Gimme an A has made his last four starts on grass, but he was a clear second in his career debut - another dirt sprint - to a nice Kentucky-based horse named Founding Chairman.

It can't hurt that Gimme an A has only five rivals in this six-furlong, entry-level allowance dash. A win by Tis a Star, Monster Move, or Crosstown Caper probably would qualify as a surprise. Vacancy won his maiden by more than four lengths at Churchill Downs, but that was last May, and Vacancy hasn't been out since June.

appears to be Gimme an A's chief rival. Cold Truth has run three times in dirt sprints at this meet, running into sharp winners twice - first Engineered, then Cloud Walker - before getting caught up in a speed duel and finishing a distant second in his most recent start, an allowance sprint Feb. 2.

"He's a nice little horse, doesn't make any mistakes," said trainer Bobby Springer. "His feet were bruised pretty bad [last fall] at Arlington. He's just now coming back."

Gimme an A barely got started. He impressively won a Fair Grounds schooling race last season but subsequently suffered problems with his hind end, according to Thornbury, and didn't make his career debut until Sept. 1.

"He's a great big horse," Thornbury said of Gimme an A. "He's like a freight train out there."

Thornbury was referring to Gimme an A's workouts as much as his races. Gimme an A puts plenty into his training, and he is not the type Thornbury feels comfortable sitting on, waiting for the perfect race to enter.

"I really think he might be more comfortable on the grass," Thornbury said.

Dirt will have to do this time, however, and it might.