01/13/2005 12:00AM

Not yet prime time for Enduring Will

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Lone Star Park
The lazy work habits of Storm Surge (above) remind Dallas Stewart of Thunder Gulch and Cat Thief.

NEW ORLEANS - Enduring Will was sniffing through her straw bedding for strands of hay Thursday morning, her head down, hindquarters to her stall door.

"Watch out," cautioned trainer Al Stall, as a stranger, ignorant of Enduring Will's temperament, approached.

Enduring Will is an explosive filly, in the barn, during training, and - redeeming her difficult behavior - when she races. A good closing second from post 12 in her career debut last July at Louisiana Downs, Enduring Will won a sprint maiden race there Sept. 5, pressing the pace and drawing away in the stretch. Stall and owner Michael Rainier chose to have her make her first start against winners the $100,000 Silver Spur, a two-turn stakes Oct. 1 at Lone Star. The track was a sea of mud, Enduring Will had an outside post, and Stall surprised jockey Lonnie Meche with his prerace instructions.

"I told Lonnie, 'Let's take her back and see what we have,' " Stall said.

What they had was a runner. Enduring Will passed seven horses with a four-wide move in the second turn, caring not a bit about the muck thrown into her face. She gawked in the stretch and still won by 10 lengths.

Rainier lives in Dallas, and the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies beckoned, but Enduring Will caught a virus and missed the race. Stall said he "shut her down" for a week or 10 days to wait for Fair Grounds. Stall thinks highly of this horse, which means he hasn't pushed hard for this opening salvo of Enduring Will's 3-year-old season. The horse Enduring Will has to beat in Saturday's $100,000 Tiffany Lass, Punch Appeal, is a five-time stakes winner, much farther along in her development.

"This is [Punch Appeal's] time," said Stall. "We hope ours has something more for down the road."

Enduring Will did not wheel and deliver a double-barreled kick, or lunge and savage her visitors Thursday morning. But she has done it before. She is trouble in the barn, and tough out on the racetrack, bucking and rearing during daily exercise. After her maiden win, Enduring Will barely could be ridden back to the winner's circle.

And if she turns out to be as good as her connections hope, none of that will matter.

Lazy in the morning, fast in the afternoon

Dallas Stewart has to work Lecomte favorite Storm Surge in company because the horse likes to cheat in his workouts.

"He's just kind of a big, lazy horse," Stewart said. "He won't give you the effort in the morning. He'll run 1:05 going five furlongs if you're not careful."

Stewart, a former top assistant to D. Wayne Lukas, has seen this act before.

"A lot of the good ones are like that," he said. "When I was with Wayne, Thunder Gulch was the same way. Timber Country and Cat Thief, too. They were good horses but wouldn't run in the morning. Tabasco Cat, we had to work him in company, too. You don't mind so much if they run fast in the afternoon."

Murphy has confidence in Major League

Paul Murphy doesn't mind that everybody's talking about Storm Surge vs. Biloxi Palace in the Lecomte. He thinks he's got the winner in Major League.

"I worked him over this track in 1:13 and two-fifths the other day," said Murphy, "which is a pretty good time for this racetrack."

Murphy trains most of his horses at a training center just outside Fort Worth, Texas, and ships to run on the Texas-Louisiana circuit. He brought Major League to Fair Grounds two weeks ago to get him acclimated to the track.

Murphy started Major League on the turf in his first six career races, winning twice, including the $75,000 Harrah's Juvenile at Louisiana Downs.

Murphy then tried Major League on the dirt and found he had another dimension.

"We ran him in a $150,000 dirt stake at Houston and he finished second after being blocked. Then we took him to the Delta Jackpot and he despised it - he just hated the track."

Now Murphy has got the Lecomte in his sights.

"If he runs like I think he can, he'll win easy," Murphy said. "But there you go, the 3-year-olds change by the minute, don't they?"

O'Callaghan enters three in Leggio

Trainer Niall O'Callaghan entered three female turf sprinters for the $100,000 Leggio Memorial Handicap here Saturday. All had shipped from his Payson Park base to New Orleans.

Although all the horses are running, Kieren Fallon, the English rider who is based at Gulfstream this winter, is less certain to participate. O'Callaghan named Fallon to ride Tara's Touch, but said it was unlikely that Fallon would wind up coming from Florida to ride the horse.

Tara's Touch is a curiosity, a South African-bred and raced 6-year-old making her first start in this country. She belongs in part to Team Valor Stables, which briefly campaigned the South African star Ipi Tombe two seasons ago.

"I'm not that familiar with South African form myself," O'Callaghan said. "She's trained well."

Tara's Touch hasn't raced in more than a year, and she might not be as sharp for the Leggio as either of her stablemates, Ahuriru Hikawai, a New Zealand-bred mare, and Speedy Sonata. Speedy Sonata makes her first start for O'Callaghan, who purchased her privately last fall in partnership with the Double Down Stable.

"She seems to be everything we expected on form, and perhaps more," said O'Callaghan.

* Neil Howard sent out a very impressive filly in Thursday's fifth race. Private Gift, an Unbridled filly out of the Alydar mare Private Status, ignored the speed-favoring bias of the sloppy track even after being bumped at the break and angled out to win going away, covering the six furlongs in 1:11.71.

- additional reporting by John Swenson