02/08/2008 12:00AM

Fass Feat takes on open company

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NEW ORLEANS - Trainer Emil Schwandt has 25 horses under his care, with 10 stalls on the Fair Grounds backstretch, and 15 more at the Evangeline Downs training center, but there is no doubt about the identity of Schwandt's stable star. That would be Fass Feat, who starts in the featured ninth race on Sunday at Fair Grounds.

Fass Feat won the Louisiana Champions Day Sprint here on Dec. 8, and arguably is the pro tem leader of the Louisiana-bred sprint division. He has six wins, but qualifies for Sunday's third-level allowance because his wins in statebred-restricted races don't count against him.

Fass Feat showed talent from the start, winning his April 2006 career debut in a fast time, but bone chips in both knees required surgery, and he missed several months.

"It's miraculous he's come back as good as he has," said Schwandt.

Schwandt, a former assistant to trainer Bradley Cathey, is in the midst of a strong meet, collecting 4 wins and 2 seconds from 15 starters. Fass Feat has been even more consistent: Only once in his 11-start career has he finished worse than third, and that was in a two-turn, one-mile race, farther than Fass Feat really wants to run.

Fass Feat wasn't quite the same horse in three races following that April 2007 defeat at Evangeline, but he returned from a late-summer and autumn break with a sharp victory in the Champions Day Sprint.

"We freshened him up, and it really got him back on the right track," Schwandt said.

Schwandt and owner Larry Loga have their eye on Louisiana-bred stakes later this meet, and Sunday's open company allowance sprint may be a good way to get him there. He is ideally drawn in post 5 and should get an ideal trip stalking two speed horses, Mr. Nightlinger and Atlantic Shore.

Mr. Nightlinger is an obvious contender, having already finished first at this allowance condition on Dec. 13, only to be disqualified and placed third. Back at the same class level on a sloppy track on Jan. 19, Mr. Nightlinger ran into mud-loving Trulyonbroadway, and finished second.

Atlantic Shore won an entry-level allowance here opening day, and was even better scoring a front-running victory in a second-level allowance Jan. 20.