01/06/2009 12:00AM

It's turf only for Royal Madame


NEW ORLEANS - The trainer Harry Hahn feels like he can predict the weather. Seems like every time Hahn enters his good turf mare Royal Madame in a Fair Grounds grass race, there's rain in New Orleans.

There was heavy rain here last Saturday, rain again Monday, and more forecast Tuesday into Wednesday, and that bodes ill for Royal Madame with regard to the featured ninth race on Thursday at Fair Grounds. Hahn and owner Michael Almerico kept Royal Madame in an off-the-turf allowance race on Nov. 14, but Royal Madame might as well have stayed in her stall - she finished last by more than 44 lengths.

"She can't stand up in the slop, and she's not that much of a horse on the dirt, period," Hahn said. "Her game is the turf."

Thursday's feature, an open allowance for Louisiana-bred fillies and mares, is carded for a mile on grass. If the race stays on, Royal Madame might offer square odds, with the presence of Tortuga Flats and Tensas Yucatan in the race and two ugly recent dirt lines in her past performances. Tortuga Flats, who figures to be favored on turf, is a Louisiana Downs grass-course specialist who never has raced on the Fair Grounds grass, while Tensas Yucatan, a very nice 3-year-old of 2007, made only four starts last year, and she begins her 5-year-old season with the look of a horse whose top races might be behind her.

Royal Madame is 6 now, and despite her two main-track flops this meet, she still seems to be going strong enough. Twice at Louisiana Downs last summer she beat Tortuga Flats on turf, and Royal Madame also has two wins over the Fair Grounds grass course, which is a world away from Louisiana Downs.

"That turf up there, that's a different ball game," said Hahn, who also entered Tar Pot in Thursday's race. "It's like running over a putting green. A speed horse can run good at Louisiana Downs."

Hahn said Royal Madame was likely to be scratched in the event of a turf rain-off. It probably wouldn't matter anyway, with Sammie Sam entered main-track-only in the Thursday feature. Racing over a muddy Fair Ground strip opening weekend this meet, Sammie Sam won a Louisiana-bred stakes by seven lengths, and about a month later she finished a solid second behind the very nice filly Superior Storm in the Champions Day Ladies.