12/21/2006 12:00AM

Mystery Classic is versatile

Email
Jeff Coady/Coady Photography
Mystery Classic, winning the Spirit of Texas, has won on grass and slop.

NEW ORLEANS - Mystery Classic will attempt to extend his six-race winning streak Saturday in the $75,000 Bonapaw Stakes, the second of three holiday sprint stakes scheduled for Fair Grounds this weekend. The track carded the $75,000 Esplanade Stakes on Friday and will run the $75,000 Sugar Bowl on Sunday.

Mystery Classic, a Texas-bred 3-year-old, returned from a six-week layoff to win the Spirit of Texas stakes over statebreds at Sam Houston on Dec. 2. In nine starts this year, Mystery Classic has gone from a maiden to a two-time stakes winner, compiling a 7-1-1 record for trainer Robert Schultz, who took over after the horse's racing debut.

Though the Bonapaw is listed as a 5 1/2-furlong grass stakes, it is likely to be switched to the main track in the wake of heavy rain. Mystery Classic has won on both surfaces, including over a sloppy track.

Trainer Dallas Stewart entered Storm Surge hoping for the race to be switched to dirt, and Thursday it rained swamp-style, inundating the turf.

"We're hoping," Stewart said Thursday morning after a deluge-shortened training session.

Storm Surge has a local record of 2-0-2 record in 4 starts, all at the 2004-05 meet. A Storm Cat colt, he won the Lone Star Juvenile on Breeders' Cup Day in 2004, then the Sugar Bowl at Fair Grounds that December. He began his 3-year-old campaign at Fair Grounds with a bang, winning the Grade 3 Lecomte and finishing third in the Grade 3 Risen Star and the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby. He appears poised for a successful Fair Grounds campaign after an easy victory over optional claimers at Churchill Nov. 16. The win was his first since the Lecomte in January 2005 and ended a 12-race losing streak.

"He's coming up to the race real good," said Stewart. "He looks like he's back to himself."

Chosen Chief, a 7-year-old, is a contender on the grass, as is Middleweight. The rest of the field is banking that the race comes off the grass.

The Tom Amoss-trained Smalltown Slew was a fast-closing second against the track bias in the Thanksgiving Handicap on opening day, and he is one of four horses in the Bonapaw coming out of that race. Amoss has an uncoupled entry with Monkey Hill, a versatile sprinter who has run well fresh and is 3-3-0 in 6 starts here.