02/21/2007 1:00AM

Ketchikan gives Stall another good one


In the 3-year-old filly Total, trainer Al Stall already had a horse for the Fair Grounds Oaks, and now the Stall barn has a colt for the Louisiana Derby - and perhaps points beyond. Ketchikan finished fourth in his career debut Dec. 24 at Fair Grounds, but came back with a smart sprint maiden win and a significantly more impressive entry-level allowance victory at a mile last Friday, earning a berth in the March 10 Louisiana Derby.

"We're here, we can stay at home," Stall said Wednesday morning. "That's the obvious thing to do with him. It's 22 days [between starts], but that's okay. We haven't had any problems with him, knock on wood."

To racing fans looking in from the outside, Ketchikan came out of nowhere. He hasn't been favored in any of his three races, and got a fairly late start to his racing career, debuting just before he turned 3. But Ketchikan has raised hopes since last summer around Stall's barn, and he cost owner B. Wayne Hughes $500,000 at Keeneland's 2-year-old in training sale last April. He's by Mr. Greeley and out the Blushing John mare Flowers and Vines, a full sister to the excellent racehorse Blushing K.D.

"Wayne always picks out a few young horses for me, and he happened to be one of them," Stall said. "I just looked it up, and he came in June 3. We took him to Saratoga all excited about him - he's a killer, physically - but he got ill, very ill, up there."

Ketchikan developed a high fever and showed signs of having contracted something serious, like colitis, but eventually shook off his illness. "He's a big strong colt, and he came out of it," Stall said. "We backed down on him for obvious reasons, knew the fall was out, and just let him train down here."

Ketchikan caught mud in his career debut and finished a well-beaten fourth, a performance that somewhat mystified Stall. But Ketchikan had no trouble with a sloppy track a month later, winning by almost five lengths, and looked even better stretching out to a mile Feb. 16. He beat 10 rivals in that race, and ran a mile on a relatively slow track in 1:37.20 under veteran jockey Larry Melancon, who has been working him since last summer.

"He's an A-plus physical and an A-plus mind," Stall said. "Larry said he didn't make any mistakes."

As for Total, Stall said she has been "training awesome." In the Silverbulletday, Total chased Appealing Zophie through a glacial pace, then shied badly from a left-handed whip in the stretch run while holding second.

"She doesn't do anything like that training," Stall said. "She's taken a right-handed stick, and I guess the strong left was what got her. I think we'll just go into the race regular with her."

Delicate Dynamite part of Amoss assault

Delicate Dynamite swept to her second straight stakes win at the meet Saturday, taking the Chou Croute Handicap by three-quarters of a length despite having to rally into a slow pace. A turf horse for most of her career, the 4-year-old Delicate Dynamite has won three in a row since switching to dirt racing for trainer Tom Amoss, who continues to roll through this Fair Grounds season, during which he has won a meet-leading 41 races from only 123 starters.

"I think Delicate Dynamite's ready to step up to a bigger race," Amoss said Wednesday. "We need to see where she can fit in on more than a local level."

Delicate Dynamite has in part taken advantage of a somewhat soft division at Fair Grounds, with Ermine - who had been based in New Orleans - on an extended trip to California, and Lemons Forever being pointed toward the Apple Blossom at Oaklawn. Now, Amoss has another older female route horse ready to run: Baghdaria, whose last start produced a seventh-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Distaff, was one of 12 horses entered in Saturday's Bayou Breeders' Cup Handicap, a 1 1/8-mile turf race.

"She's far enough along," Amoss said. "Everything's good with her."

Amoss has been especially strong with sprinters the last several months, and though one excellent claim, Smoke Mountain, recently was the subject of a private sale and now is based with trainer Cody Autrey, another sharp horse, Falcon's Peak, has emerged the last two months. Claimed for just $16,000 on Dec. 16, Falcon's Peak won a second-level allowance race Jan. 28 and captured a $75,000 claimer on Feb. 15, earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 101. Amoss said he and owner Maggi Moss had no set plans for Falcon's Peak.

Ida Maria heads feature

Amoss has action in Friday's ninth-race feature - a second-level, six-furlong allowance race with a $35,000 claiming option - in which he entered Sumneytown, who has won consecutive races at the meet.

Sumneytown, Swept Gold and Pooletta have to beat the likely favorite, Ida Maria, who had minor trouble when she finished second in a race at this class level on Feb. 2. A field of eight was entered in the race.

* Fair Grounds has rescheduled the Mardi Gras Stakes, which was to have been run Tuesday, for this coming Monday. The Mardi Gras and three other races were canceled after a small fire broke out in a bathroom, forcing the track to be evacuated.