01/16/2003 1:00AM

Give Meteor Impact long look


NEW ORLEANS - It's not that Meteor Impact hasn't shown something sprinting. In fact, the last time he raced he won the $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Juvenile at six furlongs. But Meteor Impact's connections have long seen him as a long-distance prospect, and on Saturday, in the $75,000 Crescent City Derby, Meteor Impact will test his talent around two turns for the first time.

Meteor Impact and nine others were entered in the 1 1/16-mile Crescent City, which is restricted to Louisiana-bred 3-year-olds. The statebred restriction brings out horses whose connections are stabbing at a big purse, and there is plenty of chaff to sift through. On paper, Meteor Impact's chief rivals are the two horses who finished behind him on Champions Day, Witt Ante and Lighter Knot. But both have a long way to go to reverse their last result.

In the Champions Day Juvenile, Meteor Impact broke slowly from an inside post and was surrounded by horses for the first half-mile. But he had no traffic in the stretch. Meteor Impact bulled his way between horses coming off the turn and quickly opened daylight, winning by six lengths. If owner Charlene Thorson and trainer Bobby Barnett are correct about Meteor Impact's route ability, he could wind up in open stakes races at some point this meet.

"They thought all along that he would be a better horse going long," Barnett said.

Meteor Impact hasn't raced since Dec. 14, but the brief layoff isn't a concern. Meteor Impact's recent works have impressed Barnett and jockey Calvin Borel, and his half-mile breeze in 48 seconds on Jan. 12 was the fastest of 47 four-furlong works that day.

Witt Ante returned 13 days after the Champions Day Juvenile and easily won the $85,000 male division of the Louisiana Futurity. Like the Juvenile, the Futurity was a six-furlong race, and Witt Ante will also be asked to race around two turns for the first time.

"We're prepared and we're ready if he can go a mile and a sixteenth," said trainer Larry Robideaux. "They tell me his mother won at a mile and an eighth, and I wouldn't think he's just a come-from-behind sprinter."

Lighter Knot had raced just once before the Juvenile - winning a maiden race only 13 days before the stakes - and has plenty of upside. By Slew City Slew and out of a mare by Northern Baby, Lighter Knot has the pedigree to be effective in a route race.

Lone Star Sky's next: Lecomte or Risen Star?

The Grade 3 winner Lone Star Sky worked a strong six furlongs here early this week, but trainer Tom Amoss still hasn't committed Lone Star Sky to the $100,000 Lecomte Stakes on Jan. 25. Lone Star Sky hasn't raced since he ran poorly in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, but the colt has come around quickly as Amoss prepares him for his 2003 debut.

Fair Grounds starts its 3-year-old stakes schedule Saturday with the Lecomte, followed on Sunday by the Tiffany Lass for 3-year-old fillies. The Lecomte should be decent, but the Tiffany Lass is coming up with an especially strong field.

Lone Star Sky's participation will be determined in the coming days, though after his three-quarters work in 1:13.40 on Jan. 12 Amoss feels the colt is race-ready. His concerns aren't about fitness, but about the circumstances of the Lecomte, which at one mile has a short stretch run and ends at the sixteenth-pole.

"The race is still our goal, but it's up in the air," Amoss said. "What's holding us back is not so much his preparation for the race, but how that race typically sets up. There's usually a crowded field and a lot of one-turn speed. You don't always get to run your race there."

Amoss's other option is to sit back and wait for the Feb. 16 Risen Star, which usually features a shorter field and is contested at 1 1/16 miles.

Meanwhile, Thursday was the first day of training this year for Cat Genius, the brilliantly fast 3-year-old colt who suffered an injury in his last start, the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes on Nov. 30. Cat Genius entered that race unbeaten in three easy sprint wins, but he stumbled badly leaving the gate, opening up a serious wound on the back of his right front foot. The injury forced Cat Genius out of training during December, and Amoss is uncertain when Cat Genius will make it back to the races.

"He's wearing a protective shoe right now. That will come off sometime in the next three weeks," Amoss said. "He took such a big chunk out of his foot, it took awhile to feel like he had enough foot to train on."

Lady Tak in tough and stretching out

In the Tiffany Lass, Lady Tak will try to stretch her tremendous speed from sprints to a mile, and the field taking shape to oppose her is a strong one. It's headed by Allspice and Buffalo Jump, second and third to Lady Tak in the Thelma Stakes, and a new shooter here, Belle of Perrintown. Belle of Perrintown won the Pocohontas at Churchill before finishing fifth after a wide trip in the Golden Rod Stakes, the last start of her 2-year-old season.

Wednesday, she had her major work for the Tiffany Lass, going six furlongs in a strong 1:13.60. There were two other works at that distance Wednesday, and both were almost four seconds slower than Belle of Perrintown's.

"She worked super. She's ready to go," said trainer Eddie Kenneally.

Kenneally said Belle of Perrintown responded favorably to the freshening she got after the Golden Rod. "The break seemed like just what she needed," he said. "She got some time to grow up."

* A field of eight, headed by Discreet Hero and Mineshaft, is expected for Sunday's $75,000 Diplomat Way.