02/01/2008 1:00AM

Longer looks better for Blackberry Road


NEW ORLEANS - With one more workout to go before the Grade 3 Risen Star, Blackberry Road is looking fit, and trainer David Carroll is hopeful that the added distance will help him better his Lecomte placing.

Blackberry Road finished second in the Grade 3 Lecomte on Jan. 12, beaten 2 3/4 lengths by Z Fortune. Blackberry Road will face him again, along with Pyro, who will be making his first start since finishing second in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile.

"He will get one more maintenance work, either Sunday or Monday," said Blackberry Road's trainer, David Carroll. "He's training well, and looking well."

Blackberry Road put in a workout on Jan. 28, going five furlongs in 1:02.40.

He will have more ground to work with in the 1 1/16-mile Risen Star, which is a sixteenth longer than the Lecomte.

Carroll believes the extra ground will help him. "The longer to go, the better for him," said Carroll.

Perhaps more important to Blackberry Road's chances, however, will be the pace scenario. The Lecomte went in ridiculously slow fractions of 24.39 seconds for the first quarter, and 48.36 for the half mile.

"I'd love to see him in a true-run race," said Carroll. "There's a tendency to go slow here at the Fair Grounds. He likes to sit off the pace and make a big run."

Miss Atlantic City closer to return

Miss Atlantic City won a $291,000 stakes race the last time she ran. The thing is, the last time she ran was Dec. 1, 2006.

That's a long time between races, but Miss Atlantic City is closing in on her first start since she won the Delta Princess some 14 months ago. She has posted several timed workouts, the most recent a six-furlong drill on Tuesday at Fair Grounds.

"She's definitely getting close," said trainer Keith Desormeaux. "It's been a long, arduous battle."

Desormeaux said Miss Atlantic City could make her comeback in the Chou Croute Stakes later this month at Fair Grounds, or ship to Delta Downs for a stakes race there.

When she does run, Miss Atlantic City will be racing on an ankle infused with stem cells last summer. The increasingly popular treatment did what more traditional methods could not: get Miss Atlantic City back to the races.

Miss Atlantic City didn't appear to have hurt herself in the Delta Princess, but two weeks after the race, the ankle problem showed up. Desormeaux and owner Peter Cantrell gave her time off, and tried to start Miss Atlantic City back in training last August, but her injury hadn't fully healed, at which point the stem-cell therapy was utilized.

"In hindsight, we should've done that from the beginning," Desormeaux said. "That finished off the healing process."

Desormeaux said Miss Atlantic City seems like the same horse now that she was before the long break.

"If I didn't think she could come back at the same level, she'd be in the breeding shed right now," he said.

Living quarters make the difference

Add barn configuration to the list of tools trainers can use to get their horses ready for racing. Trainer Greg Sacco has his horses stabled in the center of Barn 34, facing each other, and he credits this for calming Sicilian Soul, who runs in Sunday's ninth race, a first-level allowance at 1 1/16 miles on turf.

"She sees other horses, and it has settled her down," said Sacco. "She has been a totally different filly since we've been at the Fair Grounds."

Her first race at Fair Grounds, on Dec. 14, was big step up for Sicilian Soul. She led for the first six furlongs before giving way in the stretch to finish third, beaten just half a length.

Since that race, her newfound calmness has allowed Sacco to do more with her during morning training.

"We've been able to gallop her, whereas before she was a run-off type filly," said Sacco. "And she's stopped stall-walking, and put on weight since she's been down here."

Sacco hopes the early-morning gallops have her ready for the increase in distance, as Sicilian Soul will have to go a sixteenth of a mile more than her last race, on a turf course that has favored closers.

"She likes to up near the front end, and I expect her to be there again," said Sacco.

Husbands settling in well

Patrick Husbands, the reigning Sovereign Award winner among Canadian jockeys, has successfully moved into a crowded Fair Grounds jockey colony.

Husbands, 34, arrived in mid-January and immediately began riding and winning for trainers who spend the summer at Woodbine: Mark Casse, Josie Carroll, and Malcolm Pierce. Through the end of Thursday's racing, Husbands had ridden five winners from 18 mounts, including a victory in last Saturday's Marie Krantz Memorial Stakes on Autobahn Girl.

A six-time Sovereign winner, Husbands has spent his winters at various other tracks, including Aqueduct and Gulfstream. He spent last winter riding in his native Barbados. This is the first time he is spending the season in New Orleans.

The long stretch at Fair Grounds is well suited to the riding style Husbands favors.

"I like to come out, get a nice position, get my horse relaxed, and come motoring down the lane," said Husbands. "I like that the lane is so long here."additional reporting by Marcus Hersh