11/27/2001 12:00AM

Learned leads tough Barnett barn


NEW ORLEANS - With the Churchill Downs meet over, trainer Bobby Barnett shipped the last of his Kentucky string south to New Orleans on Monday morning, just like he did last year. But unlike last year, when Barnett was going through what he calls "a little dry spell," he is bringing a promising group to Fair Grounds this winter.

And there is no horse in the barn more promising than Learned, who will make his next start in the Dec. 22 Woodchopper here, a race that will be his turf debut. A late-starting 3-year-old, Learned is 3 for 3, with his most recent score an impressive 4 3/4-length allowance win Friday at Churchill.

Learned, who is owned by John Kottcamp and Jim Haggard, burst onto the scene at Turfway Park this fall with a devastating maiden win at six furlongs, then stretched out to nine furlongs and won by two lengths at Keeneland. Friday, he raced from off the pace for the first time, weaving between horses and rallying through the final half-mile to win going away. Barnett said that the two jockeys to have ridden Learned, Calvin Borel and Robby Albarado, both hold the colt in high regard.

Learned, who Barnett said is the biggest horse he has ever saddled, was not bred to be this kind of runner. He is by the $2,000 Cox's Ridge stallion Discover and is the first flat-race runner that his dam, 17-year-old On the Skids, has produced.

"The owners are really excited about him," Barnett said. "They've had some offers on the horse, but they passed. They're keeping him right now, and I'm excited about that."

Barnett said he has several younger horses he thinks are promising, and last Thursday at Churchill the 4-year-old Perfect Run, owned by John Franks, came back from an 11-month layoff to win a $50,000 maiden race by eight lengths in a very fast time.

Barnett also said that the 2-year-old filly Never Out, second in the Alcibiades Stakes at Keeneland in her last start, is recovering from an ankle injury in South Carolina. "There was no surgery," he said. "She should be back by the first of February - she might get to run in New Orleans."

Aloha Bold, a sprinter to watch

Aloha Bold is another late-starting 3-year-old here who is unbeaten in three starts. He won his third race for owner Stewart Madison and trainer Tom Amoss here on Saturday. Unlike Learned, who seems to have limitless stamina, Aloha Bold is a sprinter, with a pair of six-furlong wins and one at seven furlongs to his credit.

Aloha Bold, a strapping son of the young sire Flying Chevron, had to overcome serious physical impediments just to make the races. Amoss said Aloha Bold was his most promising 2-year-old last season, but as the colt neared his career debut he fractured an ankle during morning training. "We brought him back and then he colicked so badly they had to take a foot and a half of intestine out of him," Amoss said.

Colic surgery often signals a significant decline in a horse's potential, but Aloha Bold did not drop off at all. He was 22-1 when he won his Oct. 6 debut at Keeneland by more than six lengths, and he came back three weeks later to win an allowance race by more than two lengths. Saturday, Aloha Bold set a fast pace, was challenged at the top of the stretch but drew away at the furlong pole and loafed across the in front by two lengths. Said Amoss, "When he gets clear he just plays around - he's not even fatigued."

Amoss said he would keep Aloha Bold in sprints right now. He's not eager to make the jump to stakes company here, since Bonapaw rules that division at the moment, and Aloha Bold could make another start in allowance company.

L'homme merveilleux

L'homme, the Louisiana-bred 3-year-old who has never lost on grass, breezed six furlongs in 1:13.60 here Sunday, a work so good that it all but convinced trainer Richie Scherer to run the colt in the Louisiana Champions Day Turf on Dec. 8.

L'homme, a Goodbye Doeny colt owned by Angela Trosclair, has not raced since he won the Gentilly Handicap here by more than five lengths in March. L'homme spent much of the spring and summer recuperating from a leg injury, but returned to training in mid-August and breezed several times at Louisiana Downs before coming into Fair Grounds.

Sunday's work was his second here and it had Scherer gushing. L'homme picked up some unexpected company during the breeze and was three wide through much of the work, which included a good gallop out. "He got a lot out of it," Scherer said. "The way he breezed, I'm inclined to run him."

Scherer, who has trained good turf runners like Shires Ende and Minor Wisdom, thinks L'homme may be the most talented horse he has ever had. "He's still a big kid," he said. "Winning those races, he had no idea what he was doing out there."

Scherer will work L'homme one more time before Champions Day, and said a third-level allowance race or the Woodchopper Handicap also are options for the colt.