01/02/2002 12:00AM

Extra Check gets on with education

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NEW ORLEANS - A switch to turf racing picked up Extra Check's form. His last win picked up his head. And on Friday, Extra Check is in a good spot to pick up his first stakes win when he starts as the highweight and likely favorite in the $75,000 Black Gold Handicap.

* was one of 10 newly turned 3-year-olds entered in the Black Gold, which is scheduled for about 7 1/2 furlongs on grass. The field includes a John Franks-owned, Bobby Barnett-trained two-horse entry.

Extra Check failed to win his maiden race in three dirt races this summer for trainer Mike Stidham and the Three Kings Stable, and though his learning curve gradually moved ahead, it was a surface switch that really propelled him forward. Entered for turf on Oct. 28 at Arlington, Extra Check caught a boggy grass course, but skipped over it and won by five lengths.

A leggy, rangy colt still in the process of growing up, Extra Check got a little break after his maiden win and returned in a grass allowance at Fair Grounds on Dec. 6. Whatever his chances might have been on form and talent that day, they seemed to have washed away before Extra Check got to the gate. The colt got worked up in the paddock and was badly washed out before the race. But dripping wet from start to finish, Extra Check proceeded to run past a solid field and win going away by a half-length.

"He's going to spend a solid week schooling in the paddock," Stidham joked a couple weeks ago.

How Extra Check, who is ridden by Corey Lanerie, reacts to another race day remains to be seen, but Stidham said the colt has moved forward since his last start. Extra Check's coat has improved, his frame has filled out, and two recent dirt works here both were excellent.

His opposition includes It'sallinthechase, who finished 10th in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile after running second in the Grade 2 Arlington-Washington Futurity. It'sallinthechase, based at Remington Park with trainer Wilson Brown, came back from the Breeders' Cup to win a Remington stakes, but has never started on turf.

Both It'sallinthechase and War Emblem may benefit should the Black Gold be rained from turf onto the main track, a fairly common occurrence at this racetrack. War Emblem won a dirt allowance race here Nov. 23 by four lengths, and though he ran poorly in his lone turf start he bled in the race without the anti-bleeding drug Lasix.

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