01/15/2002 12:00AM

Lundy hat trick is do-able

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NEW ORLEANS - Trainer Dick Lundy arrived in New Orleans two weeks ago, and last week he predicted stepped up activity from his Fair Grounds string. Here it comes. Thursday will be his busiest day yet at Fair Grounds as Lundy saddles horses in three races, including entrants in the day's two best races.

Lundy has a legitimate chance to win with all three of his starters. Lonely Place should be favored in the first race, a $17,500 turf claimer, since he has won consecutive turf starts here at that same claiming level. Lundy also has Saffron Dancer in the eighth race, a third-level filly-and-mare turf allowance with a $75,000 claiming option, and Grandma Lu for the ninth, a second level filly-and-mare sprint allowance with a $40,000 claiming option.

Saffron Dancer might have run here Sunday in the Sixty Sails Handicap had she been able to get into the field, but Thursday's race is a good spot for her. An Irish-bred who was imported to this country last fall, Saffron Dancer has made only one U.S. start, finishing third here in a race at this class level on Dec. 3, an effort that was better than it might look on paper.

Lundy said he instructed jockey Frank Lovato to take Saffron Dancer off the early pace and make one late run at the leaders, but when the race came up with no pace, Saffron Dancer was left with the impossible task of closing several lengths on quality horses who had not expended much energy. Saffron Dancer managed to pass four horses and make up three lengths in the stretch, and her late run netted her third place, but with an honest pace to run at Thursday she could do much more damage.

There are several other reasonable contenders in the race, including Golden Rhythm and Soundtrack, sixth and ninth, respectively, in the Pago Hop Stakes. Lakenheath will have a good chance to win if the race is taken off turf because of rain.

In the ninth, Grandma Lu, one of the horses Lundy trains for his semi-private client, Ernie Paragallo, faces seven rivals, the most formidable of which is Beloved by All. Grandma Lu was beaten a neck here Dec. 9 when she sprinted on turf in a race at a higher class level, and has run big races on dirt before, too. She'll need a top effort to beat Beloved by All, who wanted no part of turf when she ran on grass here Dec. 13, finishing sixth. Beloved by All has great speed and legitimate quality, but has not won a race since taking a first-level allowance here a year ago by six lengths.

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