01/19/2008 12:00AM

Fast win bodes well for Iron Works Pike

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NEW ORLEANS - In his first outing, Iron Works Pike looked like the real deal. If he takes another step forward, he will be hard to beat in Monday's featured ninth race at Fair Grounds, a first-level allowance for 3-year-olds at six furlongs on the main track.

Iron Works Pike went to the front early in his career debut on Dec. 28, was briefly overtaken on the turn but fought back, coming home three lengths in front. He was awarded an 86 Beyer Speed Figure.

"He finished up nicely," said trainer Al Stall Jr. "After all that early pressure it was impressive that he kept going. He seemed to be gathering himself at the end, lengthening his stride in the lane."

Already a known quantity at this track and this distance, the idea that Iron Works Pike was figuring it out at the end doesn't bode well for his opponents in Monday's race. But he's likely to have more company up front this time.

Randall County sat just off the early lead last time out, before taking over on the turn and winning by 1 3/4 lengths in a statebred maiden race at Sam Houston. He comes back just 10 days after that victory.

Talent Agent is undefeated in two starts, leading wire to wire in the slop last time out in a $40,000 claiming race. His connections would not be sad to see it rain.

"We sure wouldn't mind it being sloppy," said Ben Allen, assistant trainer to Frank Springer. "We'd like to see if the other horses like the slop as well as we do."

If the front-runners tire themselves out, Saada will be looking to close. Though badly beaten in his last outing, the Sugar Bowl Stakes, Saada figures to be running at the end, and may have an honest pace in front of him.

With a third-place effort in the Grade 3 Grey Breeders' Cup at Woodbine, Saada cannot be discounted among these. He has two bullet works in preparation for this race, his first start wearing blinkers, and should be ready to go for Bill Mott's barn.