01/03/2004 12:00AM

Fire Slam working toward Lecomte

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NEW ORLEANS - The local path to the Louisiana Derby starts Jan. 24 with the Grade 3 Lecomte Stakes, and Fire Slam, the colt who finished second in the $1 million Delta Jackpot, should be ready for it.

Wednesday, Fire Slam had his first work since the Dec. 5 Jackpot, in which he nearly overcame a tough wide draw, finishing a strong second behind Mr. Jester, a more seasoned opponent. Fire Slam, a Grand Slam colt trained by David Carroll, won his debut at Keeneland and beat a Churchill Downs allowance field in his first start against winners. The Jackpot was just his third race, and first at two turns, making Fire Slam one of the more promising 3-year-olds at Fair Grounds.

Fire Slam's Wednesday work, three furlongs in 37 seconds, served merely as a reintroduction to hard-core training, Carroll said.

"We tack-walked a couple weeks after Delta, then went back to galloping," said Carroll. "This was just an easy three-eighths to stretch his legs. We'll be getting a lot more serious with him now. He's a fit horse. I shouldn't have to do too much with him."

Carroll's plans shift according to his horses' physical condition. Fire Slam, Carroll said, typically is eager to get on with his training. But the hard race at Delta clearly took a toll.

"That race did take a little out of him," Carroll said. "He was easy [to handle] for a week or 10 days, but then he bounced back."

Badge of Silver breezes five furlongs

Also turning in a significant breeze Wednesday was Badge of Silver, unraced since last season's Louisiana Derby. Badge of Silver had the stiffest work since he returned to serious training here at the beginning of November, breezing five furlongs in 1:00.61, fifth-fastest of 91 works at the distance.

Badge of Silver, one of the most exciting early season 3-year-olds of last year, stamped himself as a Triple Crown hopeful when he easily won the Risen Star Stakes here last February. However, a fractured cannon bone - the colt's second such injury - sent him to the sidelines just before the Blue Grass Stakes.

Ronny Werner, the colt's trainer, has been pleased with Badge of Silver's progress, and he said late last week that Badge of Silver could make his comeback within a month.

Mystery Giver nearing comeback

Also preparing for a return to racing is Mystery Giver, who dominated the Fair Grounds Breeders' Cup here last season in the best performance of an up-and-down campaign.

Mystery Giver ran off the board last out in a Churchill Downs allowance race but might not have handled a wet turf course, and he had won the Grade 3 Carey Handicap at Hawthorne earlier last fall.

Chris Block, who owns Mystery Giver with his family, the Team Block partnership, and trains him for most of the year, said in November that Mystery Giver could see action here either in the Colonel Bradley or the Fair Grounds Breeders' Cup. Instead of entering in Saturday's Bradley, Mystery Giver worked a half-mile on dirt in 49.20 seconds here on Wednesday.

"They decided to wait and bring him back in the next one," said Richie Scherer, who for the third year has taken over Mystery Giver's training for the winter.