12/18/2007 1:00AM

New shooters look dangerous

EmailThe second-level turf allowance for fillies and mares run as race 9 on Nov. 29 at Fair Grounds wasn't going to win any awards for quality, and in the three weeks since then, that category of race has gotten substantially tougher.

The same kind of race, carded this time at 7 1/2 furlongs rather than 1 1/16 miles, serves as the ninth-race feature Thursday at Fair Grounds. Although 13 horses were entered, no more than nine will be permitted to start because the portable turf rail will be set 20 feet out into the course, and turf races at this distance have a short run into the first turn.

Three horses in the main body of the field were losers in that Nov. 29 race, but it's the new players that merit more attention. Block was a disappointing sixth in the Nov. 24 Pago Hop Stakes, but that was her first race back from a five-month layoff, and before the break she had won consecutive grass races at Churchill Downs.

"We tried to get her some black type last time out," said trainer Al Stall. "She went the right direction off of that one."

Emma Carly, Bill Mott's 10th runner of the meet, makes her first start outside New York, and has shown good form on turf, albeit in a brief career interrupted by a long layoff. Emma Carly finished second on Oct. 14, 2006, at Belmont, and didn't race again for 356 days, but she won her comeback race, also at Belmont, has worked steadily since that showing, and looks well-suited to the short-route distance Thursday.

Thursday's distance might actually be slightly long for Danceroftherealm, whose last win - back in the summer of 2006 - came at 6 1/2 furlongs. Danceroftherealm finished a close seventh in the one-mile River Memories Stakes at Woodbine last time out on Oct. 27.

"There's a 5 1/2-furlong race coming up for her, but I want to see if she can get the two turns," said trainer Malcolm Pierce. "The last two races she's relaxed a little better."

* In race 6, an entry-level dirt allowance, several promising 2-year-olds will be getting their first two-turn test. A seven-horse field in what amounts to a prep for the Lecomte Stakes next month includes Sagaponack, who won his debut on opening day of this meet; Mad Flatter, best by nearly four lengths in a Nov. 14 maiden sprint at Churchill; and Unbridled Vicar, who ran well finishing second and third in Kentucky entry-level allowance races before shipping to New Orleans with trainer Greg Geier.

- additional reporting by Abram Himelstein