02/04/2010 12:00AM

Grand Slam Andre has experience edge in Black Gold

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Undoubtedly, there are 3-year-old stakes sprinters out there somewhere, but from the appearance of Saturday's $60,000 Black Gold Stakes at Fair Grounds, most have not come to New Orleans this winter.

The Black Gold made it onto Saturday's program with a mere five entries, and because of the miniscule field, the stakes comes early, race 3 on a 12-race card. The Black Gold is carded for about 5 1/2 furlongs on turf but may well wind up on the Fair Grounds main track, with New Orleans once again the epicenter of heavy rainfall late this week.

Only two of the five Black Gold entrants have even raced on turf, and one of those two is Saluting Stormye, a maiden. Vitto Fillito, who looks overmatched on dirt, won the $50,000 Minstrel Stakes last summer over the Louisiana Downs grass course.

Steve Asmussen trains Saluting Stormye, but he also trains Grand Slam Andre, the likely Black Gold favorite.

With 10 starts, Grand Slam Andre has raced more than any of the other Black Gold entrants, and with four wins and a $257,342 bankroll, he has won more and earned more than they have, too. Grand Slam Andre has started in races of 6 1/2 furlongs or longer five times in a row, and shortening up to 5 1/2 furlongs in the Black Gold seems positive, since it was at that distance that Grand Slam Andre scored a blowout Churchill Downs maiden win last summer.

The short sprint trip plays to the strengths of Comedero, who might prove Grand Slam Andre's main rival.

Comedero won the first three starts of his career, including a comfortable victory in the Nov. 7 Old Hickory at Fair Grounds, before finishing 11th of 12 in the Springboard Mile on Dec. 13 at Remington Park. That two-turn race really did function as a springboard, sending Comedero quickly back into a shorter one-turn stakes.

Royal Express won an entry-level allowance race Jan. 16 at Fair Grounds, earning a 91 Beyer Speed Figure, but that number doesn't match up neatly with Royal Express's first five figures, and the Spanky Broussard-trained colt shook loose on a sloppy track carrying speed in his last race.