12/05/2002 1:00AM

Is My Girl Lisa back too soon?


NEW ORLEANS - The drip, drip of light rain Thursday morning threatened to play havoc with the $60,000 Dr. A.B. Leggio Memorial Handicap at Fair Grounds Saturday. Scheduled for 5 1/2 furlongs on turf, the Leggio's complexion would be altered significantly if it's moved from turf to dirt because of rain.

Meanwhile, trainer Hugh Robertson wishes the race were coming up about a week later. On grass, Robertson may have the horse to beat in the Leggio, My Girl Lisa, but Robertson prefers to give her at least a month between starts, and she is coming back only three weeks after her last race.

"It's kind of quick back for her," said Robertson, who stabled at Fair Grounds for the first time last season.

Two horses were entered strictly in the hope they will run on dirt, Extended View and Pretty Gale, but if the race is contested on a muddy track there probably is no beating French Riviera. A 3-year-old filly owned by Barnett Stables and trained by Larry Robideaux, French Riviera didn't race between June of her 2-year-old campaign and this August. But in three starts since her comeback French Riviera has yet to lose. She was 19-1 in her last start, the Grade 3 Thoroughbred Club of America at Keeneland, but zoomed out to an early five-length lead and won easily over nine rivals.

There is no question French Riviera handles mud, but what about turf? She is by French Deputy, a classy dirt miler who in recent years has emerged as a solid turf influence. But French Riviera's dam, Actinella, didn't win in three grass starts, and neither of her two foals who tried turf won on the surface. French Riviera has great gate speed, and whether she takes to the grass or not, she figures to lead early under jockey Kirk Leblanc, though the horse to her inside, Extended View, also is very quick.

Turf sprint specialist My Girl Lisa is so good right now that the less-than-ideal space between her starts might not stop her. My Girl Lisa has won three straight races, the last two of them stakes, and most recently beat nine males in the $44,000 Crafty Drone at Hawthorne.

If the pace proves too taxing, Lady of Peace stands to benefit. Unproven in one-turn races, Lady of Peace long ago proved she loves the Fair Grounds grass, and she has won 5 of 7 starts over the surface here.

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