03/12/2005 12:00AM

High Limit shows he's for real

Undefeated High Limit, Ramon Dominquez riding, nears the wire well in front in his highly impressive stakes debut in Saturday's Louisiana Derby.

NEW ORLEANS - The mystery has been solved. High Limit is for real.

High Limit, making his first start since October and his first start in a stakes race, led from start to finish on Saturday in an impressive, four-length victory in the Grade 2, $600,000 at Fair Grounds.

High Limit ($7.20) got away with comfortable fractions throughout the 1 1/16-mile race and led his eight rivals on a merry chase. After clicking off quarter-mile fractions of 23.56 seconds, 47.36 seconds, and 1:11.85, High Limit kicked clear under jockey Ramon Dominguez and drew away. At the wire, Dominguez was easing up High Limit while looking back for competition. There was none.

"It's no secret. The horse can run," said Dominguez, who had ridden High Limit in his two previous starts last fall at Delaware Park. "He made the lead, but he came right back to me and waited. He just does as much as you ask."

High Limit got a little sloppy with his leads in the final furlong, but considering the time off, he was bound to get a little weary by race's end. He completed 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:42.74.

"He ran very, very well," said Bobby Frankel, who took over as High Limit's trainer in November for owners Gary and Mary West after the colt won his first two starts for trainer Tony Dutrow. "He won easy. He sort of toyed with them. He's a really nice horse."

High Limit was something of a mystery, even to Frankel, because he had yet to race for Frankel, and had yet to face competition of this level. But his dazzling performances last fall, and sharp recent works, convinced the public to send him off as the favorite.

A 3-year-old son of Maria's Mon, High Limit is now unbeaten in three starts. Frankel said he would make his next start in either the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct on April 9, or the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland on April 16, after first returning to the Palm Meadows training center in Florida.

Vicarage, who chased High Limit from second throughout the race, stayed on for second, 3 3/4 lengths in front of third-place Storm Surge. Wallstreet Scandal was fourth and was followed, in order, by Real Dandy, Scipion, Kansas City Boy, Sort It Out, and Indy Storm.

Scipion was the winner of last month's Risen Star Stakes, this track's major prep for the Louisiana Derby. But he did not get the same pace scenario as in the Risen Star, and only ran on very late.

"I wouldn't say he was uncomfortable," said Gary Stevens, who rode Scipion. "He was in the same spot as last time, the same place, but he just didn't handle it. When it was time to pick up the tempo, he didn't fire at all. He ran on at the end. I haven't lost any faith in him, because I know enough not to bail ship right now."