01/03/2003 12:00AM

Green Fee has experience


NEW ORLEANS - Green Fee beat nine of the best turf milers in the world in his last race, but on Sunday at Fair Grounds he will have less tangible hurdles to overcome. Green Fee will be favored to win the Colonel E.R. Bradley Handicap, but he has drawn the outside post in an 11-horse field and will be asked to carry 120 pounds in the 1 1/16-mile race, which is perhaps slightly farther than his best distance.

Even so, there may be no stopping him. Green Fee has just turned 7, but he begins his 2003 career in the best form of his life. Owned by Robert and Lawana Low and trained by Dan Peitz, Green Fee finished last season with an upset win over Forbidden Apple in the Grade 2 Kelso and a close fifth-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Mile, where 14 horses ran. The $75,000 Bradley is a deep race, but the Breeders' Cup it's not.

Often, horses at Green Fee's age go through peaks and valleys of productivity. For a while, their aging bodies feel good enough to produce top efforts, but aches and pains gradually erode their form. Since Green Fee hasn't raced since hitting his peak last fall, it's fair to wonder if he will come back the same horse. But Peitz has other theories. Green Fee battled all sorts of problems during his younger years, but he's a sounder horse now than at any other time in his career; consistency might be forthcoming.

"Larry [Melancon, jockey] has been on him when he's been here before, and he thinks he's going the best now than he ever has," Peitz said.

Green Fee has worked steadily here on dirt for this comeback, but his modest breezes don't have Peitz concerned.

"He wasn't even working this good before his last comeback, and then he went out and ran a mile in 1:32," Peitz said. "He had me scratching my head and then he ran out of the bridle. He's acting like he's ready to go out there and run."

The opposition on Sunday is solid, if not outstanding, and the main threat to Green Fee is Candid Glen. Second in this race last season, Candid Glen had a strong 2002, and while winning only twice he is fully capable of pulling a minor upset. Candid Glen was difficult to train and wild in the barn when he was younger, but trainer Andy Leggio said the gelding has settled down with maturity. At his best, Candid Glen settles well behind the pace and makes a big run coming into the stretch.

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