12/24/2002 12:00AM

Old Money big threat on drop

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NEW ORLEANS - So Old Money isn't in the same league as Astra, or Golden Apples, or Starine. But that doesn't mean she's not a legitimate turf stakes horse, and after delivering an impressive performance in a prep race a month ago, Old Money can win her first North American stakes here Friday in the Furl Sail Handicap.

For the last several seasons the quality of the Furl Sail fields was in line with its $75,000 purse, but this year the field is better: Quick Tip, Histoire Sainte, Lady of Peace, and Salty Farma give the race surprising depth.

But that roster can't compare to the monsters Old Money has challenged. An Australian import owned by Stonerside Stable, Old Money won a Jan. 16 allowance race in her first U.S. start, but then began tackling Grade 1 and Grade 2 competition in Southern California. That region often produces the country's best turf fillies, and Old Money wasn't quite good enough for them.

That's why she wound up this fall in the Fair Grounds stable of Mike Stidham, who trained her for a few weeks, then put her in a high-end allowance Nov. 29. There, she broke sharply and ran close to a solid pace, but had plenty left for her stretch run and won easily.

"She's a little bit of a quirky filly, even though she's an older mare that's run a lot," Stidham said. "There were certain obvious things we started working with as far as her mental attitude. I don't know for sure, but I think it's worked."

Quick Tip is the likely Furl Sail favorite, but at a mile the race might be too short for her. "I think she'll be okay because she's a versatile filly," trainer Neil Howard said. "But probably at a mile and a sixteenth or a mile and an eighth, I'd be a little better served."

Quick Tip, owned by Will Farish, has won two straight, including a half-length triumph last month in the Grade 3 Cardinal at Churchill. Her form has never been better, and Quick Tip posted an exceptional six-furlong work on dirt here Dec. 19.

Histoire Sainte has never lost on the Fair Grounds grass course: she won the Bayou Breeders' Cup Handicap in 2000, and the Sixty Sails Handicap the last two years. But Histoire Sainte is about to turn 7, and the Sixty Sails opponents she beat here last season probably weren't a strong as those in this race.

Histoire Sainte is trained by Steve Asmussen.

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