03/19/2002 1:00AM

Invaders coming from both directions


NEW ORLEANS - Ship-ins for Sunday's Explosive Bid were to begin arriving at Fair Grounds Wednesday, when three or four horses from Florida were scheduled to fly into New Orleans. On Thursday, a West Coast flight, which probably will carry four horses, is due in.

They have come for a $700,000 purse, and they have come in strength. Hap, a multiple graded stakes winner, heads the East Coast contingent. He will be joined by North East Bound, who has regained his form of two years ago when he was second in the Breeders' Cup Mile, Pisces, and perhaps Whata Brainstorm.

The California contingent was reduced by one Monday, with word that Irish Prize won't come for the Grade 2 Explosive Bid. Sarafan and Designed for Luck, second and third in the Frank Kilroe Handicap when they last ran, are expected for the race. So, too, are Beat Hollow and Suances, California-based imports with huge reputations.

But don't forget about the locals. Locally based horses ran one-two in last year's Explosive Bid, with Tijiyr edging Northcote Road, both finishing in front of the favorite, shipper King Cugat. Northcote Road returns again this year, and he put in his final work for the Explosive Bid on Saturday, breezing a strong five furlongs.

Northcote Road has made a career out of running over the Fair Grounds turf, on which he performs at a higher level than anywhere else. But it's hard to tell if he's doing as well he was going into last year's Explosive Bid.

"I haven't got a good line on him this year," trainer Blackie Huffman said. "I ran him on turf four times here last year. This year he's only been on grass once, and he got away slow in that race."

Huffman refers to the Mardi Gras Handicap, in which Northcote Road failed to show his customary speed, giving the eventual winner, Where's Taylor, an insurmountable early edge. Northcote Road closed well to finish third in the Mardi Gras.

Several Fair Grounds-based horses that last raced in the Connally Breeders' Cup at Sam Houston will run back in the Explosive Bid, including the Connally winner, Candid Glen.

"He's coming into this race like he came into the Connally," said Andy Leggio, Candid Glen's trainer. "The way I feel about him is we have to give him a try in a race like this. That's the only way we'll find out if he's good enough."

Even the Score, Mystery Giver, and Fan Club's Mister, who all finished behind Candid Glen, are probable starters Sunday. Even the Score, who lost the Connally by a nose but was disqualified to fifth, and Mystery Giver, ninth in the Connally, both worked five furlongs Monday morning.

"This was one of his better works," jockey Eddie Martin told trainer Richie Scherer as he came off the track with Mystery Giver following his breeze.

Mystery Giver won the Fair Grounds Breeders' Cup earlier in the meet, but did not handle the ship to Houston well at all.

"At Houston he was overanxious and overaggressive," Scherer said. "He's been doing really good here."

Sarah Lane's Oates in final start

Sarah Lane's Oates, one of the best Louisiana-bred turf horses ever, will make her final start Monday in the Red Camelia Handicap, a race she won three years in a row.

An 8-year-old homebred owned by Dr. Glen Warren, Sarah Lane's Oates has trained with Andy Leggio for six seasons. As a young horse, Sarah Lane's Oates struggled to win a maiden race before Leggio tried her on turf, where her career suddenly took off. Sarah Lane's Oates has won 21 races and more than $888,000, and won the Red Camelia, a turf race restricted to Louisiana-bred fillies and mares, in 1998, 1999, and 2000. She lost last year's edition by a nose.

"She's going to be missed," Leggio said. "She's part of the family. She's an amazing horse. We never once had to stop on her because of her legs."

Sarah Lane's Oates has been booked for a breeding to Point Given this spring. Leggio said that the resulting foal would be a Kentucky-bred.

You'llbeinmyheart has options

Options abound for the unbeaten Louisiana-bred filly You'llbeinmyheart, who could race again as soon as Saturday. You'llbeinmyheart, who is owned by Vickie Krantz and trained by Gary Palmisano, has won all three of her starts, and easily moved from allowance to statebred stakes company two weekends ago, winning the Battler Star Handicap by a length over the more seasoned and accomplished C J's Star.

By Broad Brush out of a Miswaki mare, You'llbeinmyheart has a big-time pedigree by Louisiana standards, and she is very fast for a horse bred to run around two turns.

Palmisano said You'llbeinmyheart probably would be entered in Saturday's Gentilly Handicap, a turf route race open to 3-year-olds of either sex.

"We'll probably enter her and take a look at it, but I doubt she'll run," Palmisano said.

Another possibility is a one-mile Louisiana-bred dirt allowance race on Monday, or a sprint stakes at Lone Star next month. Palmisano also said the Grade 3 La Troienne at Churchill in May is under consideration.

"We're going to try her at two turns eventually," Palmisano said. "She came out of that last race squealing the next day. That race really moved her up."