12/19/2008 1:00AM

Nothing about juvenile test quite as planned


NEW ORLEANS - Thursday's sixth race, a first-level allowance for 2-year-olds going a mile, had the potential to produce runners for the upcoming 3-year-old stakes at Fair Grounds. It resulted in a beaten favorite, a last-minute scratch, and, surprise, Steve Asmussen standing in the winner's circle.

Asmussen's trainee, Uno Mas, rated in third until the turn, then took over from favorite Friesan Fire. Uno Mas finished 2 1/4 lengths in front of Friesan Fire, who finished 11 1/4 lengths in front of third-place Escalon.

Indygo Mountain, the second favorite behind Friesan Fire, was scratched during the prerace warm-ups. All this after the race had been postponed a week, the victim of a rare New Orleans snowstorm.

Uno Mas entered the race as the fourth choice, despite winning his maiden impressively here in November. Thursday's race was his first attempt at two turns, and Asmussen believes the race is a harbinger of good things to come.

"A race like this, the first allowance route for 2-year-olds, that race has been a pretty good indication of what you have for the meet," said Asmussen. "He's a big horse, and we are pointing him toward the Lecomte."

With only 3 1/2 weeks to prepare, Uno Mas will be coming back relatively quickly in the Jan. 10, Lecomte, which will also be run at a mile.

"Timing-wise, the week delay messed with the workouts," said Asmussen. "We'll probably get two works in before the Lecomte."

For Friesan Fire, the extra week to the race may have been his undoing.

"Sitting on the extra week, we were a little too fresh, and he was a little too eager," said trainer Larry Jones.

Jones thought that Friesan Fire was too aggressive in the race, possibly because of his last workout.

"A long work would have tired him out, so we put another short work into him," said Jones. "That short work had him chomping at the bit."

Indygo Mountain, who looked promising after winning his maiden at a mile at Churchill Downs in his second race, was scratched just moments before the race as the stewards noticed problems with the way he was jogging.

"He jogged in the morning, and then when he has warming up before the race, it was obvious," said his trainer, Bret Calhoun. "When we got him back to the paddock he was walking toe to heel, like he had a bad foot.

"When we got back to the barn we blocked his foot and he went perfectly, so we think we are dealing with an abscess. He's getting his foot soaked in warm Epsom salt water, and should be back on the track in a few days."

Though the scratch of Indygo Mountain was a huge disappointment to Calhoun, he remained upbeat.

"If this is the worst thing we go through with him, we'll be in good shape," said Calhoun.

Full-time track superintendent sought

Fair Grounds is in the process of finding a full-time track superintendent, the track's assistant general manager, Eric Halstrom, said this week.

Javier Barajas, who has been around the track since 2003 in at least a consultant's role, has overseen maintenance of the Fair Grounds dirt and turf tracks the last several years, but Barajas is a full-time employee at Arlington Park, has a family in the Chicago area, and never has actually relocated to New Orleans. Barajas has flown back and forth before and during the Fair Grounds meet, coordinating operations relating to the track surfaces, but Fair Grounds, by way of parent company Churchill Downs Inc., has decided to find an actual trackman now.

"We're pursuing a full-time track superintendent," Halstrom said. "Javier will be a big part of whoever we end up hiring for this position, and Javier will make their life easier in the transition. Javier has been great, but with his family position, he can't travel as much as we'd like. We realize we need someone who's going to be here."

Barajas had left New Orleans for Chicago the day before snow fell at Fair Grounds on Dec. 11. Racing was canceled that day, and there was confusion about how to work the main track the following morning, leading to a delay in training.

Halstrom said Fair Grounds hoped to have a track superintendent working "before the end of this month."

No rushing Old Fashioned

Old Fashioned, the undefeated Remsen winner based at Fair Grounds with trainer Larry Jones, is training steadily, but is unlikely to post a timed workout until January.

"There's no reason to get in a hurry," Jones said.

Old Fashioned shipped to Fair Grounds soon after winning the Remsen by more than seven lengths, and is galloping daily for Jones.

"He's at his normal gallops, and believe me, he goes along pretty good," said Jones.

Jones, who rides many of the horses he trains during morning exercise, has said that Old Fashioned never seems to get tired during regular morning gallops. His stamina, Jones said, surpasses that of Hard Spun and Eight Belles, both of whom finished second in the Kentucky Derby.

Jones and owner Rick Porter are targeting a February 3-year-old debut for Old Fashioned. The colt could make his first 2009 start in either the Feb. 7 Risen Star at Fair Grounds, or the Feb. 16 Southwest at Oaklawn.

- additional reporting by Marcus Hersh