01/02/2003 1:00AM

Mystery Giver to pass on Bradley


NEW ORLEANS - Of the 18 horses nominated to Sunday's Colonel E. R. Bradley Handicap, as many as 11 or 12 are expected to start, but Mystery Giver is one of the few who will pass Fair Grounds' first turf stakes for older horses.

Mystery Giver came out of his second-place finish Dec. 7 at Sam Houston with a foot abscess and won't race again until next month. An Illinois-bred who won the Fair Grounds Breeders' Cup here last season, Mystery Giver would have been among the favorites in the Bradley since he just missed winning the Great State Challenge Turf in his last race. But a couple of days after shipping from Houston to Fair Grounds, Mystery Giver walked out of his stall lame, and rather than rush him into Sunday's race, his connections will await the Feb. 1 Fair Grounds Breeders' Cup.

"It might be better that he has more time between races anyway," said trainer Richie Scherer. "He seems to run well fresh."

This is the second straight year Mystery Giver has gone on loan to Scherer. Bred and owned by David and Patricia Block and others in the family, Mystery Giver is trained most of the year by the Blocks' son, Chris. But the last two seasons, Chris Block has wintered in Illinois, and with no turf racing there until later in the spring, Mystery Giver has spent the winter's at Fair Grounds with Scherer.

Last year Mystery Giver was still a gangly adolescent, and Scherer spent as much time fretting about his weight and overall physical condition as he did pointing him to races. Mystery Giver still isn't the easiest horse to train, but he has done a great deal of maturing the last eight months.

"He's back training now, and he's training well," Scherer said.

Even without Mystery Giver, the 1 1/16-mile Bradley is coming up tougher than a $75,000 stakes should. Chief among the prospective starters is Green Fee, winner of the Grade 2 Kelso and fifth in the Breeders' Cup Turf in his last two starts of 2002. Green Fee has trained well over the Fair Grounds dirt track for Danny Peitz, but has performed best in races slightly shorter than the Bradley. A horse with a great chance at a slight upset is Candid Glen, who won an off-the-turf allowance race early this meet and loves the Fair Grounds grass course.

Chicago gang in turf allowance

Arlington Park has come to Fair Grounds for Saturday's eighth race, a stakes-class turf allowance for fillies and mares. Soccory, Twilite Tryst, and Golden Antigua have squared off any number of times in Chicago and all of them plus six others have shown up in this $39,000 race.

The race attracts listed-stakes caliber turf horses who did not quite pass muster for last Friday's Furl Sail Handicap, and Twilite Tryst is a perfect fit. Second in her most recent race Nov. 22 at Hawthorne, Twilite Tryst raced here once last season, suffering a heartbreaking nose defeat in the $100,000 Pago Hop. At her best, Twilite Tryst will sit a good stalking trip behind pace horses and come with a strong late run.

Twilite Tryst, Soccory, and Golden Antigua have taken turns beating each other this year: Soccory got Twilite Tryst by a neck the last time they met, Golden Antigua beat Soccory when those two hooked up in May, and Twilite Tryst finished ahead of Golden Antigua in July.

If that game of musical chairs doesn't appeal to you, look to Distant Valley or Peace River Lady. Those horses spent most of their summer in Kentucky, but both prefer to race on or near the pace, a style that is a disadvantage on this course.

A 104-1 'Notion'

Toolight's Notion had a string of off-the-board finishes extending at least 11 races when she went to the post in Thursday's second race, a $7,500 claimer for nonwinners of two.

That was one major factor in Toolight's Notion's odds, 104-1 at the final tally. But after racing well behind the early leaders, Toolight's Notion showed a surprisingly strong stretch kick, wearing down the 3-5 favorite Walking Sassy in deep stretch to win by a length. With 32-1 Bounding Rail another two lengths back in third and 17-1 Lonesome Stoney fourth, the 2-7-4-5 superfecta paid 11,705.

Toolight's Notion's win mutuel, $211.20, was the highest here since March 2000.