01/07/2005 1:00AM

'Mountain' getting smart


NEW ORLEANS - Mountain General owns the track record for six furlongs at Fair Grounds, 1:08.03, a mark he set in the 2003 Thanksgiving Handicap. But he is not the horse he used to be, a fact trainer Steve Asmussen acknowledged when he decided not to enter him in Sunday's Colonel Power Handicap against the best sprinters at Fair Grounds.

"It's a tough race, and he's not the same horse he was two years ago," said Asmussen. "He's an older horse and he's taking it easy on himself."

Mountain General, 7, didn't fire in his last start, the Thanksgiving Handicap.

Asmussen said Mountain General isn't injured and has been training fine. It appears Mountain General has figured out that he doesn't have to run hard to earn his feed.

"He doesn't put as much effort into it as he once did," said Asmussen.

Lac Laronge returns to top form

Trainer Troy Young was elated following Thursday's feature race at Fair Grounds, a $34,000 optional claiming turf sprint won by his Louisiana-bred Lac Laronge against open company.

"I'm a Louisiana-bred trainer," Young said after unsaddling Lac Laronge, a 5-year-old gray gelding. "This was the only spot I had to run him in."

Lac Laronge runs primarily on dirt, including a second in his last start, the Louisiana Champions Day Sprint, but this was his second victory on the grass in five starts.

"He's very versatile," Young said. "He runs on both dirt and grass. Some horses can't switch back and forth, especially going from grass back to dirt, but this one can."

Lac Laronge was a multiple stakes winner as a 3-year-old, but Young had to give him a break at the end of 2003. The rest did him a world of good.

"He had an ankle problem," Young said. "It got to the point where I had to stop on him. I gave him four months off and the ankle problem cleared up. He was a bleeder, and that cleared up, too."

Bonapaw retired after finishing last

Bonapaw made his last run at Fair Grounds on Thursday in a turf sprint. After pressing the early pace, he shortened stride on the turn and was eased through the stretch, running last. Owner Dennis Richard slapped his crumpled program against the railing and watched Bonapaw come back one last time.

"This was his last race," he said. "I'm not going to embarrass him or embarrass myself any more. He had a breathing problem that made him keep stopping."

A 9-year-old Sabona gelding, Bonapaw was a winner of $1,158,752 in a distinguished career that included a victory in the Grade 1 Vosburgh Handicap. He was retired in Dec. 2003 but didn't adjust to being turned out. Richard decided to bring him back to the races this fall, and Bonapaw ran once at Delta Downs and twice at Fair Grounds, finishing last each time.

"He's going to the farm for good this time," Richard said.

All-stakes Pick 4

Fair Grounds will offer a $250,000 guaranteed pool on an all-stakes Pick 4 on Jan. 15, which is "Road To The Derby Kickoff Day." The four $100,000 stakes races are the Grade 3 Lecomte Stakes for 3-year-olds, the Tiffany Lass for 3-year-old fillies, the Col. E.R. Bradley Handicap for older turf horses, and the Dr. A.B. Leggio Memorial Handicap for older fillies and mares on the turf. The stakes will be carded as the sixth through ninth races. Approximate post time for the sixth race is 3:55 p.m Eastern.