12/26/2007 1:00AM

Golden Hare seeks 14th win of year

EmailThe 11 fillies and mares entered in the featured ninth race on Friday at Fair Grounds have combined to win 13 races during the 2007. That's if you count the two wins from Limitless, who was entered main-track-only in the 5 1/2-furlong second-level grass allowance race.

That puts the whole field in race 9 on equal footing with the surefire favorite for Friday's fifth race - the illustrious Golden Hare.

Golden Hare is 2007's poster boy for the claiming set, with a nation's best 13 victories on the season. Golden Hare, an 8-year-old gelding, has made 16 starts this year, and has won at 10 different racetracks. A Fair Grounds score would make it 11.

"He's extremely proud of himself," trainer Steve Asmussen said. "He does not consider himself a lower-level claimer."

Scott Blasi, who has the unusual distinction of being Golden Hare's owner and Asmussen's assistant, claimed Golden Hare for $3,500 out of a second-place finish in November 2006 at Remington Park. To call Golden Hare a sharp claim would be saying far too little.

A borderline stakes horse in 2002, Golden Hare had fallen hard by the time Blasi haltered him. His loss that afternoon at Remington was his 21st in a row, and Golden Hare was coming back from a layoff of 14 months. Since then, it has been nothing but 1's and 2's in Golden Hare's past performances: 18 wins, 3 seconds.

All of which makes it almost heretical to suggest that Golden Hare could be beaten Friday. Golden Hare has plenty of wins at Friday's six-furlong distance, but something slightly shorter might be his best trip. Also, Golden Hare does most of his work on or near the lead, and there appear to be other speed horses in Friday's race. A closer with a touch of quality, such as Shot the Deputy, or even a second Asmussen-trained horse named Billy Idel, might have a chance at an upset.

As for the second-level turf-sprint allowance, the pick is Shesa Little Flirt, whose turf debut locally last month came in the Pago Hop Stakes. That grass race was contested around two turns, and Shesa Little Flirt looks much more like a sprinter. She has run well on Polytrack, and is out of a With Approval mare, which hints at grass potential.