01/26/2005 1:00AM

Options limited, Cape Hope may face males


NEW ORLEANS - The 3-year-old filly Cape Hope has turned in two of the best turf sprint performances by her peers of either sex at the current Fair Grounds meet. That record may have earned her a shot at males in Saturday's Black Gold Handicap at 7 1/2 furlongs on the grass here.

Trainer Dallas Stewart is not that eager to run Cape Hope against males, but he thinks he probably has the best horse in the race.

"It's not something I like to do, run a filly against colts, but I might have to, because there's not a race for her on the turf here," said Stewart.

After running on dirt at Keeneland, then in the mud at Turfway Park, Cape Hope arrived at Fair Grounds and took to the peculiar sand-based grass course like a duck to water. She won a maiden race at a mile on the turf by six lengths without being urged, then returned to smash an entry-level allowance field at a mile on the grass by 6 1/4 lengths. Each time she closed willingly into a slow pace.

"We'll decide after we see how the race fills if we're going to run her," said Stewart. "It doesn't look like too tough a field for her."

An Overbrook Farm homebred, Cape Hope is not particularly well bred for the grass, being by Cape Town out of the Corporate Report mare Corporate Debut.

"We didn't really know until we tried her on it," said Stewart.

Neil Howard, who has won the lion's share of open stakes at Fair Grounds this meet, will be represented by Straw Hat in the Black Gold. Straw Hat won his last race and appears to be coming to hand for Howard. Captain Corelli and Krises Bells, second and third to Straw Hat in their last outing, are also going. Niall O'Callaghan is shipping Medigating in for the race from Florida off a fifth-place finish in the Grade 3 Tropical Park Derby.

Biloxi Palace back on the track

Biloxi Palace, who was forced to scratch from the Jan. 15 Lecomte Stakes here when he came down with a fever on race day, has recovered and is expected to resume training sometime in the next week. Trained by Dan Peitz, Biloxi Palace last ran Dec. 26 at Fair Grounds, winning a mile-and-40-yard route that has turned into a key race. Real Dandy, runner-up to Biloxi Palace in that race, returned to win a tough allowance race here last Friday, and the third-place finisher, El Batallon, shipped up to Oaklawn Park to win an allowance race on Saturday's card.

The anticipated showdown between Biloxi Palace and the Lecomte winner, Storm Surge, will have to wait.

"He had the fever and a lot of congestion," said Peitz. "It knocked him out for several days, but we got him back on the racetrack this week. I might work him this weekend."

A number of horses on the backstretch have come down with congestion problems in the last two weeks.

"It may have something to do with the drastic changes in the weather," Peitz said.

The week-plus of training that Biloxi Palace lost relegates him to a schedule that will not have him ready to run in the Feb. 12 Risen Star Stakes, the centerpiece of Louisiana Derby Preview Day.

Peitz still hopes to make the Louisiana Derby with Biloxi Palace.

"We need to get a race into him," he said. "We'll either run in an allowance here, or we'll have to ship him to Oaklawn to get a race under his belt."