12/21/2006 1:00AM

Hot Storm seeks fifth win this year

Jack Coady/Coady Photography
Hot Storm won the Saylorville in June, one of her four victories in 2006.

Hot Storm has won four races in 2006 and All for Fashion has made four starts in her entire career, but Friday's Esplanade Stakes for older females at 5 1/2 furlongs on dirt could come down to those two.

Hot Storm and All for Fashion at least figure to be the favorites, though there are seven others - a few capable of winning - in the Esplanade, a new edition to the Fair Grounds stakes schedule. The Esplanade also could hinge on mud form. For the first time this meet, New Orleans is forecast to undergo an extended period of rain, with thunderstorms predicted Wednesday through Friday night.

Sodden conditions don't hinder Hot Storm, who has won 10 of her 26 career starts and has three wins and a third from four wet-track races. Hot Storm has won eight times the last two calendar years - including a victory over the Fair Grounds surface - but comes into the Esplanade after four defeats.

"But she won almost half her races before that," trainer Dallas Stewart pointed out. "She's a very consistent horse - we're happy to have her in our barn."

Hot Storm has potential excuses to go with her recent losing streak. According to Stewart, "she hated the track" when a dull eighth four races ago at in the Endine Stakes at Delaware Park. Then came two third-place finishes on Polytrack - one at Turfway, the other at Keeneland, and both against Polytrack-loving Malibu Mint - and another third in a Breeders' Cup undercard stakes, when Hot Storm raced wide against an inside bias.

All for Fashion has required no recent excuses. All for Fashion debuted as a 2-year-old for a $75,000 tag at the 2005 Saratoga meet and won by almost six lengths, but suffered an injury and didn't race again for a year. She was fourth on the Ellis Park turf in her comeback race, but then won a Remington Park entry-level allowance by seven lengths and a $65,000 Zia Park 3-year-old stakes by nearly nine. Equally important, All for Fashion has been breezing with apparent zeal over the Fair Grounds surface, logging five five-furlong works since Nov. 14.

"She's a filly that's always had a lot of ability," trainer Scott Blasi said. "I think it's a real chance for her to win a nice race."

The field also includes Mykindasaint, who got her once-promising career back on track with a fourth-level allowance win Nov. 26 at Fair Grounds; Hatpin, who has won 4 of 12 starts for trainer Mark Frostad; and Silver Crown, who won the A.B. Leggio last winter at the Fair Grounds meet at Louisiana Downs.