12/08/2009 1:00AM

Mr. Skie's Spirit not least bit picky about surface


Monday's races at Fair Grounds were moved from turf to dirt. So were last Thursday's, and last Friday's. On Saturday, only the Pago Hop Stakes was left on the grass course, the day's other turf races moved to dirt.

This happens every year. Fair Grounds is in New Orleans, which gets a lot of rain. Off-the-turf is a fact of Fair Grounds racing life.

But does that matter a whit to a 3-year-old colt named Mr. Skie's Spirit, one of 10 horses entered in the fourth race Thursday? The second-level optional $25,000 claimer, restricted to Louisiana-breds, is scheduled for 5 1/2 furlongs on turf.

"If it stays on, we're going to show up, and if it comes off, we're still going to show up," said trainer Keith Bourgeois, who has been working with Mr. Skie's Spirit at the Evangeline Training Center a couple hours west of New Orleans.

Two races into his career, and Mr. Skie's Spirit already has demonstrated that he can go both ways: He broke slowly and rallied strongly in the stretch to win his career debut in a turf sprint Aug. 21 at Evangeline Downs. And opening day of this meet, Mr. Skie's Spirit set blazing splits and still drew away to win an entry-level allowance going six furlongs on dirt.

"I don't really think it matters which surface it is," said Bourgeois. "He's a nice horse."

Mr. Skie's Spirit and Shane Sellers had the rail in his recent Fair Grounds race. The pair broke second from the gate, and Sellers told Bourgeois he had no desire to take back and lose early position. It meant Mr. Skie's Spirit went an opening quarter-mile in 21.50 seconds, and passed the half in 44.57. Those are demanding splits at Fair Grounds, and no one got near him. But with post 6 on Thursday, and other quick horses entered in the race, don't expect a repeat of the tactics employed last time.

"He rates fine working out in the morning," Bourgeois said. "He's really not a speed-crazy horse. He'll do what you want."

No doubt, Mr. Skie's Spirit takes a decided step up in class Thursday. He'll have to face the likes of Postage Necessary, Belend, In the Forecast, and Fass Feat - all better horses than anything he has yet beaten. But the way he has looked in his first two races - and from the look of a fast half-mile work on Nov. 18 - Mr. Skie's Spirit will be ready for them.

Come rain or shine.