01/04/2003 1:00AM

Focus falls on maiden turf fillies


NEW ORLEANS - Don't wait around for the feature at Fair Grounds on Monday. You'll be here indefinitely.

Fair Grounds goes allowance-free in its first Monday of racing this meet. Traditionally on a Thursday-through-Monday schedule, Fair Grounds dropped Monday racing during December to try and preserve a precious commodity - the horse population - for later in the meet.

Field size on the program is solid - 9.5 starters per race before scratches - but there is an obvious lack of quality to the card. The best races are a pair of maiden dashes at about 5 1/2 furlongs on turf, and a starter allowance at about 1 1/8 miles on grass.

The first division of the 3-year-old filly turf sprint is the fourth race, and in a 12-horse field you will find no standouts. None of the horses with race experience has shown great talent, a circumstance that arouses interest in first-time starters like Hedley and Forest Shadows.

Hedley debuts for Steve Asmussen, leading trainer here, and is bred top and bottom for grass, while Forest Shadows won a training race for the Al Stall barn and also has a pedigree laced with grass influences.

Trainer Tom Amoss will have the favorite in the other field of maiden fillies (eighth race), and if Acquiescent builds on her sharp debut here Dec. 12 she will indeed be tough to beat. Beaten a head that day in a dirt sprint, Acquiescent should handle turf, since her sire, Subordination, excelled in grass miles. But look for Achnasheen to run well. Second with a lot of trouble this summer in her career debut, Achnasheen has posted strong works here.

Most Feared pointed for Lecomte

Most Feared, winner of the Grade 3 Arlington-Washington Futurity last fall, returned to the work tab this week and is on track for a scheduled start in the Jan. 25 Lecomte Stakes, the first step here for Louisiana Derby hopefuls.

Given a brief freshening in early December, Most Feared worked five furlongs in 1:03.20 on Dec. 30 for trainer Ronny Werner.

Most Feared started his career last April but didn't show much until Werner stretched him out in midsummer. He won the Arlington-Washington by three lengths, and after a sixth-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile came back to run well in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes in late November. Most Feared had a troubled trip, but still finished third, beaten only two lengths by Soto.

Most Feared was turned out for a couple of weeks, but Werner said he "didn't lose anything" in terms of fitness and worked just days after returning to Fair Grounds.