01/19/2004 1:00AM

Fair Grounds: Longshot romps


Put Me In had never won a stakes race, and went off at odds of 22-1 in the Dr. A.B. Leggio Handicap at Fair Grounds. On the other hand, Eddie Martin was riding her. Martin won six races on Sunday's card, tying a Fair Grounds record, and guided Put Me In ($47.20) to a surprisingly easy 4 1/2-length win over Leslie's Love in the $60,000 Leggio.

Heavy rain on Saturday forced the Leggio to be moved from turf to dirt, a benefit to Put Me In, who had finished third in the only grass start of her career. That came in a Dec. 26 allowance prep for this stakes, and although Put Me In was defeated, she showed positive signs. A late starter, Put Me In began her career in claiming races and won her first four starts, looking much like a stakes horse before reaching a plateau in late summer. But trainer Merrill Scherer pressed on, and Put Me In began coming forward again late last year.

Sunday, racing from farther off the pace than ever before, she challenged Leslie's Love in midstretch, quickly drawing clear of her and nine other opponents. Put Me In was timed in 1:04.14 on a track rated fast.

Brown Eyed Beauty, the even-money favorite, finished third, four lengths behind Leslie's Love.