12/16/2003 12:00AM

Future of 'Internet' still turf


NEW ORLEANS - Freefourinternet already ranked as one of the best grass horses stabled to Fair Grounds, but his talents evidently extend to the main track. Entered in a grass race last Sunday that was moved to dirt after heavy rain on Saturday, Freefourinternet made an impressive last-to-first run to win a high-end allowance race by a length.

Even so, his connections are sticking to their prior plans: Freefourinternet is likely to remain on grass the remainder of this meet, with his next scheduled start Jan. 3 in the Colonel E.R. Bradley Handicap. The horse's major goal is the $500,000 Mervin Muniz Handicap March 21.

"The horse has always breezed well on the dirt, but you never know until they do it in a race," said Joan Scott, his trainer. "It's good to know you have the option if a race comes off. But I think he'd be able to last longer if he stays on the turf for now."

Winner of the Grade 2 Kelso, and a troubled sixth in the Breeders' Cup Mile in October, Freefourinternet quickly dropped far behind the leaders in Sunday's race. At the first call, he trailed by at least 15 lengths, but he began moving at the half-mile pole. His rider, Robby Albarado, felt he had so much horse that to risk getting stopped by saving ground would be folly, so he swung his mount wide, looped most of the field on the far turn, and sustained the move all the way through the stretch.

"The horse has been working so good," Albarado said. "I breezed him and he went [five furlongs] in 1:04, but it was probably the best I had a horse work all meet."

Scott has trained Freefourinternet since late last spring. One of his former trainers, Chuck Simon, had expressed disappointment with the way the horse finished his races. Freefourinternet often seemed to be in a position to win, but wouldn't close the deal. With two victories in his last three starts, Freefourinternet may be developing different habits, and that would make him a major player in the Midwest turf division throughout next year.

Lady Tak takes things slowly

One of the fastest horses at Fair Grounds turned in one of the slowest works of the day on Monday morning. But not to worry: Lady Tak is just getting started, and the idea right now is to take things slowly.

Lady Tak had her first work since finishing seventh and last in the Breeders' Cup Distaff, officially going a half-mile in 53.60 seconds. Sixty-one other horses were clocked working the distance, and only one went slower. But the mere fact Lady Tak breezed is a positive sign. Her Breeders' Cup trip sapped her energy, and her trainer, Steve Asmussen, has spent the last month letting Lady Tak come back around. He hopes to have her ready to make her 2004 debut during the Fair Grounds meet.

"She's filled out, and I think she's starting to rebound," Asmussen said. "We're still going to space out her exercise fairly well. I want her to be bigger."

Posse, another Asmussen trainee, continued his preparations for the Grade 1 Malibu later this month, working five furlongs Sunday in 1:02.80.

Asmussen also said that Spritely Walker, winner of the Louisiana Champions Day Classic, had come out of the race in good shape, and was likely to run again Feb. 7 in a $200,000 statebred stakes at Delta Downs.

Big field probable for Pago Hop

A full field is expected Saturday for the $100,000 Pago Hop Stakes, a one-mile grass race for 3-year-old fillies.

Baie, a Mark Frostad-trained filly who has faced Grade 1 horses in her only two North American starts, may be the best of the prospective starters.

But trainer Christophe Clement is expected to send the stakes winner Where We Left Off in from Florida, while Asmussen has Tiva's Little Sis, fourth in the Grade 2 Mrs. Revere the last time she raced.