02/03/2004 12:00AM

Olmodavor gone but not forgotten

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NEW ORLEANS - Olmodavor will leave New Orleans on Wednesday and return to trainer Dick Mandella's Southern California base, but he might return. Mandella said Monday that he would seriously consider shipping Olmodavor back to Fair Grounds for the $500,000 New Orleans Handicap on Feb. 29.

If Olmodavor comes, he could once again meet Spanish Empire, whom he beat by a half-length here Sunday in the Grade 3, $100,000 Whirlaway Handicap. Spanish Empire, still improving as a lightly raced 4-year-old, appeared to come out of the Whirlaway in good shape.

"He ran a good race," said Steve Asmussen, who trains Spanish Empire. "Hopefully he's still moving forward and deserves a chance in the New Orleans Handicap."

The time of the Whirlaway was moderate, 1:45.59 for 1 1/16 miles, but the Fair Grounds track surface was somewhat dull Sunday, and Olmodavor was given a high Beyer Figure, 107.

Olmodavor ran much better in this race than he did in the San Pasqual Handicap at Santa Anita on Jan. 3, when he finished third. The Fair Grounds racetrack is generally slower than those in California, and races here are conducted at a less frantic pace. But Mandella says he doesn't believe the change in environment boosted Olmodavor, who made a striking appearance before and after Sunday's race.

"He had a big chip fracture in his ankle as a yearling, and we've been in there twice to clean it up," Mandella said. "It's just a question of how he's feeling. Since we went in [to his ankle] and did that last summer - that was the reason he was laid off - he seems to be getting stronger."

Mandella said he would choose between the New Orleans Handicap and the Santa Anita Handicap for Olmodavor's next start.

Lotta Kim injures leg in fall

Of all the 1,000-plus horses stabled at Fair Grounds, it had to be Lotta Kim who was walking near a fired-up, barely controlled horse during training hours Sunday morning. Coming off the racetrack after a routine exercise, Lotta Kim, the Tiffany Lass winner, was spooked by a horse behind her who was acting up. Lotta Kim lost her composure and fell hard on the pavement, opening a cut high on the inside of her hind leg. The cut required 25 stitches. Lotta Kim, according to trainer Hal Wiggins, will need 10 days to two weeks of stall rest and may not train again for a month. That will cost her an intended start in the Fair Grounds Oaks, which, based upon her impressive Tiffany Lass win, Lotta Kim had a good chance to win.

That is the bad news, and Wiggins has taken it in stride. On the plus side, swelling on Lotta Kim's hock seems inconsequential, and when her wound heals, Lotta Kim should be able to pick up where she left off.

"It's nobody's fault," Wiggins said. "It was just a freak accident. Hopefully, it'll just delay us a bit in time."

Badge of Silver works easy

How in the world does a horse as fast as Badge of Silver work five furlongs in 1:04.40? The answer, trainer Ronny Werner says he hopes, is the very thing that will propel Badge of Silver toward the top of the national handicap division in the coming months.

In his comeback race here Jan. 23, Badge of Silver ran six furlongs in 1:08.80, but he can turn himself off just as quickly. His five-furlong work Monday was strictly maintenance. His rider, Robby Albarado, didn't want Badge of Silver to go fast and that was fine with Badge of Silver.

"I think that's why he's not going to have any problem stretching out," Werner said.

New Orleans has had a lot of rain lately, and the forecast calls for more this week. With weather a concern, Werner said he "wanted to squeeze this work in."

"I did want a slow work, and he did it very easy, but I think he shaded 12 [seconds] for the last eighth," Werner said. "To be honest, and knock on wood, I couldn't ask for him to be doing any better right now."

Badge of Silver is scheduled for a more serious workout next week as he prepares for a possible start in the New Orleans Handicap.

Political Risk ran 'okay, not great'

Political Risk nearly started in the Whirlaway on Sunday, but trainer Neil Howard chose a more conservative path - he ran Political Risk in a 1 1/16-mile allowance race the same day. In that race, Political Risk made a great impression in the paddock and the post parade and was an odds-on favorite, but he could not catch the front-running Roar on Tour in the stretch. Political Risk finished second by 1 1/4 lengths. He was coming off a third-place finish in an sprint.

"I thought it was okay, not great," Howard said. "I did think he'd win. I've been kind of cautious with him. I don't know how much he got out of the six-furlong race he ran."

Howard said the New Orleans Handicap was "still a possibility, but maybe we need to lower the bar a little bit right now."

Another Howard-trained 4-year-old colt, Midway Road, could make his first start of the season before the end of this meet. Midway Road, unraced since finishing third in the Ohio Derby last June, has recorded three timed workouts at Fair Grounds. His 3-year-old season was curtailed by what Howard termed "a small hairline fracture in his back ankle." The injury required a long period of rest.

Cloud Walker loses to brother

No one could come close to Cloud Walker in his first two starts. But when a second-level allowance race failed to fill, trainer Tom Amoss was forced to enter Cloud Walker against listed-stakes-level sprinters in a high-end allowance Saturday. This time, Cloud Walker hesitated at the break, failing to make the lead for the first time, and wound up third, beaten three lengths.

Since Cloud Walker had run so fast his first two starts and was made an odds-on favorite, his race might be viewed as a disappointment. But Cloud Walker was conceding a lot of experience to fast horses and, considering the circumstances, actually turned in a creditable performance.

Besides, there was a family rivalry at stake. The horse that won the allowance race, Ole Rebel, is Cloud Walker's older brother. Both horses were produced by the Valid Appeal mare Velvet Tulip.