12/30/2004 12:00AM

G P Fleet running well for Flint


NEW ORLEANS - G P Fleet manhandled a good field last week in an optional claiming race that was washed off the turf, beating the resurgent Candid Glen going away. He has now won three in a row, including the Grade 3 River City Handicap at Churchill Downs.

"G P Fleet is probably the best horse I brought down here," said Kentucky-based trainer Steve Flint, who shipped in 26 horses for the Fair Grounds meet. "I had some other good ones up there but I didn't want to take up space here if I don't run."

Though the race came off the turf, Flint didn't have a second thought about running G P Fleet.

"I swear this is the safest track to train over in the winter," he said. "I wouldn't be afraid to run a turf horse on dirt here. That lane is a big equalizer. The same goes with trying horses dirt to turf. Because the turf course is so sandy, speed horses have no chance to get away from you."

G P Fleet, who turns 5 on Saturday, could run next in the $100,000 Col. Bradley Handicap at 1 1/16 miles on Jan. 15. But the prospect of running instead in restricted company in the $500,000 Sunshine Millions Turf Jan. 29 at Santa Anita Park might be hard to pass up.

"How many opportunities do you get to run against Florida-breds [and California-breds] for half a million dollars?" he said. "But then you have to ship him out there, then you have to ship back the day after the race. The weather's got to cooperate, too. In California it can be 85 degrees when we're in the 40's and 50's here. We've got a tough decision to make. We're going to let him tell us what to do."

Flint praised G P Fleet's owners, Richard, Bertram, and Elaine Klein, for letting him do what's right for the horse.

"The owners are very good about that," he said. "You work with some owners where money is everything, but these people aren't like that. It's kind of like a private job - they let me have a few outside horses. But basically I'm their trainer."

Flint's long-range goal for G P Fleet is the Grade 2, $500,000 Mervin H. Muniz Jr. Memorial Handicap here on March 19.

"My objective is to get him ready for the Muniz," said Flint. "It's all a matter of keeping him in shape. He's going to be a nice horse."

Shaunavon upsets Leggio Prep

Shaunavon stormed down the middle of the track to win the Dr. A.B. Leggio Memorial Prep for fillies and mares at 5 1/2 furlongs on the grass Thursday.

Eddie Martin Jr. allowed Shaunavon to settle toward the rear of the field as Ambition Unbridled set a scorching pace under Corey Lanerie, running the first quarter in 22.10 seconds and a half in 45.89. Martin and Shaunavon took aim on the leader at the head of the stretch and caught her in the final furlong. Shaunavon held off the late charge of Black Escort to win by 2 1/4 lengths.

Shaunavon, a gray 3-year-old daughter of El Prado trained by Josie Carroll for James and Alice Sapara, covered the distance in 1:04 and paid $14.80 to win.

Claim goes wrong

The claiming game can be high-stakes gambling. Owner George Ackel Jr. and trainer Andrew Leggio Jr. found that out Thursday when a horse they claimed in the seventh race at Fair Grounds, Pokerfaced, pulled up lame after the finish and had to be vanned off.