01/20/2004 12:00AM

Lecomte looking light


California and Florida had their turn last weekend. Now, it is time to see what Fair Grounds has in the way of 3-year-old stakes horses.

For now the answer may be, "not too many." As of Monday, the track listed only five horses as possible starters in Saturday's Grade 3, $100,000 Lecomte Stakes. More may pop up as the nature of the race becomes clearer, although the Lecomte seems to boil down to a match-up between Fire Slam and Polish Rifle. Both colts finished second in 2-year-old stakes the last time they raced - Fire Slam in the $1 million Delta Jackpot, Polish Rifle in the Laurel Futurity. Tapit, the Laurel Futurity winner, is widely regarded as one of the most promising 3-year-olds in the country.

Also in the Lecomte is Shadowland, a horse who is little known outside his inner circle. Based at Oaklawn Park with trainer Ralph Nicks, Shadowland was confirmed as a Lecomte starter Tuesday by Barry Irwin, president of the Team Valor syndicate, which owns Shadowland.

Shadowland's strangely shaped career has moved from North Yorkshire, England, to northern Kentucky, but what matters more is his record: 2 for 2, with a win at six furlongs on turf at Thirsk Racecourse and at a mile on dirt at Turfway Park. Team Valor purchased Shadowland after his English debut, believing "he would be a dirt horse by the way he moved," according to Irwin.

That is what he looks like. Running after a layoff of several months, and racing for the first time in this country, Shadowland was visually impressive winning an entry-level allowance Dec. 7 at Turfway Park, earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 80.

So dirt seems fine, but how far Shadowland might want to run is another question. Shadowland is powerfully built and bred along the lines of a miler. "For a mile and a mile and a sixteenth, I think we'll be fine," Irwin said. "After that, we'll just have to see."

Team Valor also has Tiger Hunt, another 3-year-old stakes horse, at Oaklawn. He will be ready a little later in the year, but Shadowland is ready to go now.

"There's nothing for him at Oaklawn until late February, and he's ready to run now," said Irwin.

This is the way the Lecomte is shaping up: Monkey Hill, a colt with just one start, is among the horses being considered for the race.

He is no sure thing to start, however, and trainer Tom Amoss said Monkey Hill might be entered only "if it's a really poor-looking race."

In his debut here Jan. 10, Monkey Hill, a General Meeting colt owned by Jill and Marc Winston, won a sprint maiden race, rallying up the rail from a few lengths off the pace. It was a promising first race - but nothing like the race of another Amoss horse.

Cloud Walker could be good one

In Cloud Walker, Amoss and the owner Tracy Farmer have one of the more exciting prospects at Fair Grounds, though Cloud Walker is a year late for the Triple Crown grind. Since he is by Phone Trick and out of a Valid Appeal mare, Cloud Walker is probably more of a sprinter, anyway, and may turn out to be a fine one. His seven-length debut win in a Dec. 14 Fair Grounds maiden race was striking but not nearly as good as an entry-level allowance victory Jan. 11. There, Cloud Walker ran six furlongs in 1:09.83, .16 seconds faster than Aloha Bold's winning time in the Colonel Power Stakes a race later.

"I got him three months ago, and I don't know what made this horse not come around the first time," Amoss said. "I can tell you he's a very smooth animal. On a scale of 1 to 10, he's a 10. He's a very good-looking horse. With a maiden win, you wonder how much of it is speed and how much is quality, but I think that last race showed he has quality."

No plans have yet been formed for Cloud Walker's next start. "It's up in the air if he'll run in a stakes next time," Amoss said. "We have some concern about how much education he's gotten."

Wiggins has two for Tiffany Lass

The Lecomte's filly counterpart is the $100,000 Tiffany Lass Stakes, Sunday's feature, where trainer Hal Wiggins holds a very strong hand. Wiggins said Tuesday that he planned to enter two fillies in the Tiffany Lass, All Electric and Lotta Kim. All Electric won a one-mile entry-level allowance here by four lengths Jan. 4, and Lotta Kim hasn't started since a second-place finish in the Golden Rod Stakes last November at Churchill.

"They have the same kind of running style," Wiggins said. "I don't like to run two horses in a race like that, but at the same time, you have to appreciate having two horses to run in a stakes race."

Wiggins considered entering Lotta Kim in an entry-level allowance scheduled for Saturday but figured Lotta Kim had enough quality to match up decently with the horses being considered for the Tiffany Lass. Another stakes placing would further enhance her resume.

Song Track on her way up

Song Track won't be entered in the Tiffany Lass but is a filly to watch in stakes races later this meet. A Dixieland Band homebred owned by William Farish and Ogden Mills Phipps, Song Track won her maiden by 7 1/2 lengths Jan. 11 at Fair Grounds, a significant improvement from her first two career starts.

"I think she's going in the right direction, but the plan right now is to have her go in a nonwinners of two allowance," said trainer Neil Howard. "The temptation is always there to jump into a stakes, but with these fillies, it's usually better to be conservative. So far, from what I've been seeing, she might be stakes quality."