01/17/2007 12:00AM

Flanders Fields still developing


Trainer Dallas Stewart always thought of Flanders Fields as a top prospect, and just because the colt hasn't achieved his considerable potential doesn't mean he won't.

As the son of champions - his sire, A.P. Indy, was the 1992 Horse of the Year, and his dam, Flanders, was the Eclipse Award-winning 2-year-old filly of 1994 - Flanders Fields became an automatic consideration for the 2006 Kentucky Derby following a sensational maiden victory the previous September. But several disappointing races led Stewart to set more modest goals, and now it would please the veteran trainer if Flanders Fields, an Overbrook Farm homebred, is merely able to get through his second-level allowance condition when the feature race is run Friday at Fair Grounds in New Orleans.

Flanders Fields, with Lonnie Meche to ride, will break from the inside post in a field of eight older horses entered in the race, a $45,000 allowance at a mile and 40 yards.

"I still honestly think he's going to be a real top horse," said Stewart. "He's just always been a big horse, and it's taken him some time to mature. He had a minor injury last spring, and it's taken us a while to get him back fit. His last two races have both been really good, I thought, and with more racing he's just going to keep improving."

After returning from a 6 1/2-month layoff with a ninth in a Nov. 23 turf allowance at Churchill Downs, a race he evidently needed, Flanders Fields has fared respectably in two tries at Fair Grounds, winning an entry-level allowance on Dec. 10, then running second as the odds-on choice in the Dec. 30 Woodchopper.

Besides Flanders Fields, the Friday feature also drew another A.P. Indy 4-year-old who made a good local impression after shipping south from Churchill: Crossword, a Neil Howard trainee who made a huge run from last to first before settling for a close third in a Dec. 10 allowance. Crossword, with Robby Albarado to ride, will be trying to break a seven-race losing streak.

The others in the lineup are Play the Chime, Bureaucratic, Durkin's Call, Desert Sea, Hamaaly, and Dubai Gold.

Two $75,000 stakes will be featured Saturday at Fair Grounds: the Truly Bound Handicap for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles, and the Gentilly Stakes for 3-year-old Louisiana-breds at about 1 1/16 miles on the turf.