01/31/2004 12:00AM

Monkey Hill tries to take next step


NEW ORLEANS - won his career debut Jan. 10 as the favorite in a 12-horse field, and in the week leading up to the Grade 3 Lecomte Stakes here at Fair Grounds, his name came up as a possible participant. Monkey Hill has generated some buzz, and it will be interesting to see how his development progresses in Monday's featured ninth race at Fair Grounds.

The race is an entry-level allowance at six furlongs, and it has not drawn an exceptionally difficult field. Forthcoming, Intrinsic Worth, and Palpen all look like contenders, but Monkey Hill has landed in a fine spot to face other winners for the first time.

Monkey Hill is a General Meeting colt owned by Jill and Marc Winston and trained by Tom Amoss. Amoss said he was never keen on going straight to the Lecomte off a maiden sprint maiden win but said there are hopes for this horse.

"If we're good enough, we'd really like to make the Louisiana Derby," Amoss said. "That's a big if, but that's our dream, and this is a business that's based on dreams. This is one baby step toward that goal. We'll go on until he tells us otherwise, and if he does, we'll look at alternative plans."

Monkey Hill displayed talent in his schooling race victory here and ran professionally in his first start. He broke a beat slowly but quickly got into the race from post 9, stalked the pace, came through on the inside, and won by a length. He has worked twice since the debut win and has drawn well on the outside of the field.

Forthcoming, who has the rail, might be the speed of the race, and he turned in the best performance of his career Jan. 17, when he finished second in an entry-level allowance sprint. Palpen, Dial for Speed, and Monkey Hill should be in the flight of stalkers, and if Monkey Hill follows through on his debut effort, he should edge clear in the stretch.

Also featured Monday, two races earlier, is an entry-level allowance for older horses. Amoss has a horse for this race, as well, in Platinum Edition, who had little chance when he raced against Amoss's brilliant young sprinter Cloud Walker in his last start.

But the most compelling horse in this field is , perhaps the only horse to have won two training races at Fair Grounds. Raised Right battled physical problems for two years but finally made it to the races and won his career debut here Jan. 8. Trainer Neil Pessin said Raised Right lost a bit of weight coming out of that start but quickly bounced back and has trained well for this race.