12/01/2005 12:00AM

'Madelyn' ships in for Leggio

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Larry Jones can laugh now. Last Sunday, when tornado warnings were out for the area around Oaklawn Park, humor was in short supply.

Jones bases much of his training operation out of Ellis Park in western Kentucky, and was one of the horsemen most directly affected when a tornado ripped through the Ellis backstretch last month. With his base essentially destroyed, Oaklawn allowed Jones to move in early. And here came another round of storms.

"We were talking and saying, 'Everybody's going to blame us, the tornado-attractors,' " Jones said. "We laugh about it, but when it was happening, it made you start getting a little worried about things."

In the end, high winds but no funnel clouds blew through. And now, Jones is blowing into the Fair Grounds meet at Louisiana Downs with one of the favorites in Saturday's $75,000 A.B. Leggio Memorial Stakes. Josh's Madelyn impressively won a Keeneland allowance race in her most recent start, and does her best work at seven furlongs, the distance of the Leggio.

"That's her game, and she's awfully good at it," Jones said. "They tell me her mother was exactly the same way, loving that one turn."

Josh's Madelyn, one of 10 entered in the Leggio, is a Grade 2 winner with seven victories in only 22 starts, but she never has tried Louisiana Downs. She will find a relatively short stretch, but Jones isn't concerned about that.

"It's not necessarily the length of the stretch for her," he said. "Pace is a lot of it. She takes the hook well, and that's about when she'll start trying to get herself in position, when they turn for home."

Josh's Madelyn, who worked a snappy five furlongs Monday at Oaklawn, may have Southern Surprise to catch. Making her first start in six weeks, Southern Surprise was second in a high-end Churchill Downs allowance race Nov. 6, but Louisiana Downs, where she has 3 wins and 2 seconds from 5 starts, may be her favorite venue. Once best as a flashy short sprinter, Southern Surprise has learned to relax early in her races, and has expanded the distance she can carry her speed.

"She relaxes a little better now than she did when she was younger," trainer Ralph Nicks said. "As they get a little older, they get a little wiser sometimes. She's doing well, and she's run well over that racetrack at seven furlongs, which is one reason we chose the spot."

Leading trainer Steve Asmussen has two for the Leggio, with Red Lifesaver perhaps stronger than Ghostly Gal. On her best day, the Bernie Flint-trained Tempus Fugit could contend, too.