03/10/2007 1:00AM

Mr. Sulu takes an available spot


NEW ORLEANS - Mr. Sulu, a prolific stakes winner over his career, has ended up in the odd position of having used the March 3 Dixie Poker Ace as a prep race for Monday's feature race at Fair Grounds, a third-level grass allowance for older horses at 7 1/2 furlongs.

"There have been so few opportunities to run him," said trainer Josie Carroll as she watched the 9-year-old gelding gallop Saturday morning. "It's been very, very frustrating. We usually give him the summer off and try to do our racing here, but this year there wasn't a prep race for either the Champions Day Turf or the Dixie Poker Ace, so we had to run him in both those races without an opportunity to run him in a prep. That's why we're running him right back in open company here."

In both his races this winter, Mr. Sulu has lost to Desert Wheat, who ran in the Muniz on Louisiana Derby Day.

Carroll said she was "a little disappointed" after Mr. Sulu's fifth-place finish in the Dixie Poker Ace, "but he was pretty much in trouble through the whole race and ended up getting beaten only two lengths to what looks like a very nice horse."

Mr. Sulu has had an illustrious career against Louisiana-breds, winning the Louisiana Champions Turf in 2001, 2004 and 2005 and the Dixie Poker Ace in 2003 and 2005. He has as many races over the Fair Grounds grass (19 starts with an 8-0-6 record) as several of his rivals here have run in their lifetime.

"We've had a lot of fun with him," said Carroll.

Mr. Sulu has an advantage here, because all those stakes wins against statebreds don't count at this condition, but he will face some tough rivals.

Idle Rumor is a course specialist who is 4 for 5 over the Fair Grounds grass. Jockey Gerard Melancon has Idle Rumor's late run precision timed - the horse's four course wins came by a combined margin of about two lengths.

Hyte Regency, trained by Jeff Trosclair, made only one start as a 3-year-old last year before being sidelined by injury. He ran second to Idle Rumor after a year layoff, then finished second on dirt before winning a second-level turf allowance in his last start.

Pasketty is a turf specialist (3-7-2 in 20 grass starts) with a versatile running style and a penchant for finishing second.

Kingship has won 3 of his 6 starts on grass, including the Grade 3 Arlington Classic. A 4-year-old King Cugat colt, he has been off since Nov. 11 and may need the race.