12/01/2006 1:00AM

Krantz horses thriving since returning home


NEW ORLEANS - The first barn you come to on the Fair Grounds backstretch sports the blue and white colors of Bryan and Vicki Krantz, who owned the track before Churchill Downs purchased it in 2004. Inside the trainer's office sits Gary Palmisano, a Fair Grounds veteran and trainer who saddled his first winner at the New Orleans oval, We Ade, back in 1974. Palmisano has trained the Krantz horses for 25 years, but hurricane Katrina put him out of business.

"When Katrina hit I was across the lake at Folsom training center," said Palmisano. "The roof flew off and we didn't have no electricity. We had the horses ready to run but they were stuck there and they were in danger. I had to make a decision to get them out of there. So we sent them over to Al Stall at Louisiana Downs."

When the horses came back from Shreveport, Palmisano and the Krantzes decided to reorganize under the name of Palmisano's assistant trainer of 30 years standing, Pat Herbert.

"We still work together the same way," said Herbert.

It's been a long road back, but now that they're back home, Palmisano and Herbert are ready to saddle some winners. They hope to strike at first asking in Sunday's eighth race at Fair Grounds with Nowandforevermore.

"He's been going real good," said Herbert of the 3-year-old Sky Classic gelding. "He acts like he likes it over here."

It seems like the Krantz horses are all appreciating the return to their home base. Stable star Destiny Calls, who is probably making the final start of her career next Saturday in the $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Ladies Sprint, was off form earlier this year at Louisiana Downs but has been training brilliantly since returning to Fair Grounds.

"We don't think she liked the deep track at Louisiana Downs," said Herbert.

"She's doing great," Palmisano said. "She's been working well, turned in three bullets in a row, breezed six furlongs in 1:13 a couple of days ago. She just likes this racetrack. I ran her over at Louisiana Downs and the racetrack was not to her liking, so we're just going to throw those two out and go forward. This will probably be her last race because we're going to breed her next year."

The stable has another Champions Day hopeful in Blueyed Lass, who will run in the $100,000 Ladies.

"Blueyed Lass has been consistent, running first or second every time," said Palmisano. "She just won a $100,000 stake at Louisiana Downs on their Champions Day. She'll win on the dirt but I think she's a little better on the turf. We're going to try her in the Distaff, the longer race, so we have two for Champions Day."

Leestown Light in Sunday feature

The stakes-winning Louisiana-bred Leestown Light takes on open competition in Sunday's feature race at Fair Grounds, a second-level $35,000 optional claimer for fillies and mares at about 5 1/2 furlongs on the turf. Leestown Light won the $50,000 Sarah Lane's Oates Handicap, a Fair Grounds stakes, last year when it was held as part of an abbreviated Fair Grounds meet at Louisiana Downs. Though she is the leading money-winner in the field, with $94,360 in the bank, and is the likely favorite with red-hot apprentice jockey Joseph Talamo named to ride, Leestown Light is the only horse in the race offered for the $35,000 tag. It's the lowest level she's ever run at - she won a $50,000 entry-level optional claimer at Louisiana Downs back in January.

Grand Theft, another 3-year-old filly, has done little wrong in her four starts on the grass, with a pair of wins and two second-place finishes. A daughter of Tactical Cat, she is cutting back off a fast-closing second at six furlongs on the Polytrack at Turfway Park.

Beautiful Racket also showed an immediate liking for the grass when trainer Anthony Mitchell took over her care at Arlington Park in July. A 3-year-old daughter of Twining, she showed speed on the turf, missing by a head in a five-furlong entry level $50,000 optional claimer before holding on by a nose over a surface labeled soft at the same condition on Aug. 27.

Another Louisiana-bred, Kimua Baby, makes her first start off a claim by Jonas Gibson. A 3-year-old Zarbyev filly, she won at first asking on the grass back in May at a mile.

Bewitching Miss, a 4-year-old daughter of the Irish stallion Sword Dance, scored her first turf victory in four tries last time out, winning an entry-level five-furlong allowance at Arlington.

The 6-year-old mare Maid of Money has a 1-0-2 record in 10 grass tries. Sin Town and Unfriendly Koo are making their first starts on grass.

Talamo tops jockey standings

Apprentice jockey Joseph Talamo, a 16-year-old Louisiana native, has taken the Fair Grounds by storm in little over a week of riding here. On Thursday he rode four winners to vault ahead of Donnie Meche to the lead in the jockey standings. Talamo, who went into Friday with 10 winners, won three in a row Thursday - the fourth race on Ty's Rocket ($20.60), the fifth on Little Dirty Herty ($19.40), and the sixth with May I Choose ($7.60). He then won race 10 aboard Slew Okee ($6.20).