02/10/2005 12:00AM

Gigawatt challenges Pollard's Vision


NEW ORLEANS - Steve Flint thought he would be training a group of well-bred young horses the last couple years, courtesy of his main client, the owner-breeders Bertram and Elaine Klein. But the Kleins were hit hard by mare reproductive loss syndrome, the mysterious illness two and three breeding seasons ago that caused so many mares in Kentucky to abort, and Flint was forced to fall back on skills learned long ago under his father, Bernie Flint.

"I had to go back to my roots, my dad, and be a claiming trainer," Flint said.

Flint claims produced the stakes-class horses G P Fleet and May Gator, and on Saturday at Fair Grounds, in the Mineshaft Handicap, former claimer Gigawatt tries for his second consecutive stakes win and fourth straight overall victory. The streak began at Churchill Downs on Nov. 4, the day Flint claimed him for $40,000, and includes wins in a high-end turf allowance and the Louisiana Handicap on Dec. 31. , who made more than $1 million last year at age 3, is shipping in from Florida for trainer Todd Pletcher.

In all, 10 were entered in the Mineshaft, a $100,000 Grade 3 contested at 1 1/16 miles, and there are other contenders besides the top two choices. Alumni Hall, beaten by Gigawatt in the paceless Louisiana Handicap, comes off a win in the Maxxam Gold Cup at Sam Houston. Colonial Colony was beaten less than a length that night and is back for the Mineshaft, while Formal Attire and Skipaslew ship from California, and the lightly raced but talented Wanderin Boy also comes from Florida. The others are Golden Glen, and the longshots Britt's Jules and Fiber Optic.

Britt's Jules is cross-entered in Saturday's Taylor's Special Handicap

Pollard's Vision has by far the best credentials in the race, with wins in a Grade 2 and two Grade 3's last year, but Pollard's Vision has never raced against older horses, and is shipping from his home base in Florida while making his first start after nearly four months on the shelf.

Pollard's Vision finished third here last year in the Louisiana Derby, but Gigawatt - the first horse Steve Ramsey has owned - is defending his home course.

"I'm not saying he's going to be a future star, but I'm seeing a lot if improvement in this horse," Flint said.

Taylor's Special: Rematch and more

The Taylor's Special Handicap, a $100,000 event for 4-year-olds and up at 5 1/2 furlongs, is the last open turf sprint stakes for older horses at the meet, and highweighted Gold Storm will only run if the race comes off the grass.

If Gold Storm scratches, the race becomes a rematch among Wrzeszcz, Parker Run, and Worldwind Romance with a couple of new players thrown in.

Worldwind Romance failed as the favorite in the prep race for the Taylor's Special last month. It was the 7-year-old Worldwind Romance's first race in two months. Trainer Gamaliel Vazquez won the Leggio Memorial in January with Ambition Unbridled, who also was making his second start off a layoff.

"It's better to win when the big money is on the line than the prep race," Vazquez reasoned.

Worldwind Romance will have to improve dramatically to turn the tables on Wrzeszcz. A 4-year-old Langfuhr gelding trained by Tom Amoss, Wrzeszcz ran an exceedingly fast 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:04 to win the prep, leading every step of the way. Parker Run ran on well to finish second in that race.

Two of the new players are serious contenders. Mighty Beau, a hard-as-hickory West Coast invader trained by Jeff Mullins, is the class of the field. He has been no worse than second in half of his 26 grass starts. If the 6-year-old Mighty Beau takes to the Fair Grounds grass he will be hard to beat.

Britt's Jules thrives on a steady diet of dirt stakes races but has never run on turf. If he enjoys the grass he is in a great upset spot here.

- additional reporting by John Swenson