01/24/2004 1:00AM

Fire Slam out-hoofs 'em all

Louis Hodges Jr.
Fire Slam didn't look like he had a troubled left hind hoof, winning the Lecomte Stakes by two lengths Saturday at Fair Grounds.

NEW ORLEANS - Last Monday, much to trainer David Carroll's dismay, Fire Slam popped a quarter crack on his left hind foot. Somewhere around Wednesday afternoon, Fire Slam seemed unlikely to make the on Saturday at Fair Grounds. By Friday, his injured foot was feeling better, and three hours before the Lecomte, a blacksmith put a fiberglass patch on the hoof. And then Fire Slam went out and won the Lecomte by two lengths over Shadowland.

It was a solid performance from a promising 3-year-old colt - and a brave one.

"That foot's going to sting him tonight," Carroll said.

Fire Slam kicked his stall last week, and after a good Monday workout, the quarter crack took center stage in the Carroll barn. All week, Carroll said Fire Slam's participation in the Lecomte would be a race-day decision.

But he told jockey Shane Sellers, "If I lead him over there, just ride him with confidence."

Two Down Automatic flew out of the gate, but geared down to run an opening quarter- mile in 24.65 seconds, with Fire Slam a length behind. The pair ran as a team down the backstretch and around the far turn, but when Sellers asked Fire Slam to leave Two Down Automatic, he quickly disposed of him. Fire Slam, racing at less than 100 percent, widened comfortably through the short stretch run, getting a mile in 1:38.48. The second choice, he paid $5.40 to win. Shadowland rallied mildly for second, with Two Down Automatic holding third. Favored Polish Rifle was close turning for home, but had nothing for the drive and wound up fifth.

The Louisiana Derby prep out of the way, Carroll now will focus on clearing up Fire Slam's quarter crack. The colt will have about a week off before slowly winding up for the Louisiana Derby. He gives the owner Stan Fulton two Triple Crown hopefuls. Fulton's St Averil won the Santa Catalina last weekend at Santa Anita.