12/26/2003 12:00AM

Fuzzy Fund's sprint ability an issue

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NEW ORLEANS - The fog was so thick during the Louisiana Champions Day Juvenile that the horses were scarcely visible. But at least they were out on the racetrack. Just one horse from the $100,000 Juvenile, Fuzzy Fund, runs back Sunday in the 2-year-old male division of the Louisiana Futurity, a six-furlong race offering a $40,000-added purse.

Fuzzy Fund broke eighth in the Juvenile and did little to improve his position, winding up eighth of 12. Fuzzy Fund was well backed in the Juvenile at 4-1, having won a pair of seven-furlong races at Delta Downs before coming into Fair Grounds. But at Delta, seven-furlong races are run around two turns, and Fuzzy Fund may not have the speed and agility to race effectively in true sprints. In his five-furlong debut at Delta, Fuzzy Fund showed little, and though his trainer, B.J. Gilbert, theorized his horse would like the long Fair Grounds stretch, Fuzzy Fund must show more gate speed to win the Futurity.

Kim's Gem, who skipped the Juvenile, has plenty of speed, and he looks like the horse to beat here. Based at Evangeline Downs with trainer Lloyd Romero, Kim's Gem won his maiden here Nov. 28, overcoming a speed duel to score by a neck.

On paper, there is no one Sunday to match Kim's Gem's gate speed, and he has turned in exceptionally fast works since he last raced. Fog or no fog, he may disappear.

Handpainted looks to next year

Her 3-year-old season went nowhere, but the talented filly Handpainted is gearing up for a 2004 campaign.

An A.P. Indy filly bred and owned by Glen and John Sikura, Handpainted easily won her first three starts at 2 and appeared headed for a Sovereign Award as Canada's top 2-year-old filly of 2002. But then things began to unravel. In the Mazarine Breeders' Cup, Handpainted injured herself in a gate incident, though she still finished second. Although she began breezing here early last winter, Handpainted never made a start at Fair Grounds.

"She kept battling a nagging virus down here last year, and she never could shake it," said trainer Josie Carroll.

Finally deemed ready to run in April, Handpainted showed little in her sprint return but rebounded to finish second in the Grade 1 Selene Stakes. She seemed to be headed the right direction, but just as quickly, she came up with what Carroll termed "a minor injury" and was given plenty of rest at a Florida farm.

But now Handpainted is back, and in two breezes at Fair Grounds she has shown Carroll quick progress.

"At this point, it's too early to say when she's going to race, but she's coming to hand quickly," Carroll said. "She's actually changed quite a bit physically in the last year. She was a light-framed filly, but she's grown up a lot in the last season. We have expectations that she can return to her previous farm."

Lanerie and Asmussen split

The association between trainer Steve Asmussen and jockey Corey Lanerie is over, at least for now. Lanerie was at Santa Anita on Friday to ride the Asmussen-trained Posse in the Grade 1 Malibu, but, according to Asmussen and Lanerie's agent, Rick Mocklin, Lanerie is no longer riding for the Asmussen stable.

"We're still on Posse, but as of last Saturday night, it was mutually agreed we would both go in a different direction," said Mocklin. "I guess it was time for everybody to take a break from each other."

Asmussen called the circumstances of the break "a tough situation. We've had a lot of luck with Corey."

Lanerie has made great strides the last several years, in great part because of his relationship with Asmussen, but also through hard work. Asmussen and Lanerie have teamed up for tremendous meets at Lone Star and Fair Grounds, and with the jockey Donnie Meche sidelined because of a suspension, Lanerie rode first call for Asmussen in Kentucky this season.