09/17/2004 11:00PM

'Evening' might love 9 furlongs


Perhaps it's true that you can't teach an old dog new tricks. But at Mountaineer Race Track, a veteran trainer might be able to get an older horse to recapture his best form at a distance he once relished.

Dale Baird, approaching 9,000 wins for his career, has the entry of Horrible Evening and Kasparov lined up for Tuesday night's $75,000 Fall Handicap, a 1 1/8-mile stakes for 3-year-olds and up.

Baird privately purchased both runners from the barn of trainer Niall O'Callaghan earlier this year. Although Kasparov has the most recent win and a 102 Beyer Speed Figure to his credit, Horrible Evening is the more intriguing prospect.

A 6-year-old gelding who has won 10 of 39 starts and nearly $360,000, Horrible Evening returns to the dirt after four consecutive losses on the turf. Also, for the first time in 18 months, Baird is bringing Horrible Evening back to a distance where he once excelled.

Overall, Horrible Evening is 4 for 8 at nine furlongs, including a win with a 99 Beyer as a 3-year-old in the 2001 Prairie Meadows Derby and a 97 Beyer for a victory in the Prairie Bayou at Turfway Park in December 2002. He last raced 1 1/8 miles in the Tejano Run at Turfway in March 2003.

Through Sept. 17, Daily Racing Form records indicate Baird, racing's all-time winningest trainer, has 8,980 lifetime victories. He led the nation in wins 13 times between 1979 and 1991 and won every meet title at Mountaineer from 1981 to 2001. Though still successful, Baird hasn't saddled a stakes winner since Nature took the 2001 edition of the Fall Handicap.

A pair of shippers, one from Chicago and the other from Kentucky, are the prime contenders in the Fall.

Wiggins, easy winner of the West Virginia Governor's Handicap last month in his only previous trip to Mountaineer, returns from his Arlington Park base for trainer Anthony Granitz. In his last race at nine furlongs, Wiggins won the Round Table at Arlington in July 2003.

Ask the Lord, a 7-year-old gelding based at Churchill Downs with trainer Bernie Flint, hasn't been worse than second in three previous visits to Mountaineer.