01/07/2005 12:00AM

Gold Storm, Clock Stopper square off

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NEW ORLEANS - The $60,000 Colonel Power Handicap, Sunday's six-furlong feature at Fair Grounds, lost a little of its star power when two of the expected runners, Beau's Town and Mountain General, didn't show up at entry time. But the race still will provide the best matchup so far this meet, when Gold Storm and Clock Stopper, who both ran in the Breeders' Cup Sprint, take on Thanksgiving Handicap winner Ole Rebel, stakes winner Nebraska Moon, and speedsters Artemus Sunrise and Spooky Mulder.

The defections make things easier on Gold Storm, who finished ninth in the Breeders' Cup Sprint last time out after getting caught up in a suicidal pace.

"He's coming up to the race real good," said trainer Bubba Cascio, who breezed Gold Storm a half-mile in 47.40 seconds Wednesday, the third-fastest of 53 workers at the distance that morning. "He's coming off a layoff, but he hasn't been laying low. We've been working him hard."

Gold Storm will carry 120 pounds, including new rider E.J. Perrodin, who replaces Larry Taylor, the rider of Gold Storm in his last five starts. Gold Storm will break from post 5, outside of likely pacesetter Artemus Sunrise.

"I'm real satisfied with the post," said Cascio. "We're going to try a different strategy this time. We're going to try to rate this horse."

Clock Stopper, sixth in the Breeders' Cup Sprint and third in his last start, the De Francis Memorial at Pimlico, drew the rail and was assigned high weight of 122 pounds. He is trained Dallas Stewart and will be ridden by Robby Albarado. He has not won in six starts dating back to last June, but he has hit the board in five stakes during that period.

Ole Rebel, winner of the Thanksgiving Handicap in his last start, will break from the outside post under 117 pounds. Artemus Sunrise set the pace in the Thanksgiving Handicap and is likely to argue the early fractions again under 116. Spooky Mulder is likely to come out running from the post 2 at 114.

Nebraska Moon, in at 114 pounds for trainer Wayne Catalano, won the Forward Pass Stakes at Arlington Park last year with a strong rally and is likely to turn in the best late run.

There is one more dirt sprint stakes after the Colonel Power for older horses at the meet, the $125,000 Duncan F. Kenner Breeders' Cup Handicap on March 19.