02/22/2003 12:00AM

Original plan for 'Badge' in tact

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NEW ORLEANS - Badge of Silver remains on target to make his next start in the March 8 Louisiana Derby, trainer Ronny Werner said Saturday.

Werner's comments came a day after Ken Ramsey - who co-owns Badge of Silver with his wife, Sarah - said Badge of Silver might skip the Louisiana Derby and head straight to the Illinois Derby on April 5 at Hawthorne Race Course. Ramsey, speaking after a stakes win at Gulfstream Park, cited extra time between starts as a reason for considering the move.

"There's still two months before the Kentucky Derby, and I've already gotten five calls about this today," Werner said. "Badge of Silver will tell us when he's ready to run. Right now, there's nothing to talk about. The plan still is the Louisiana Derby, the Illinois Derby, and the Kentucky Derby."

Badge of Silver "has lost some weight" since he won the Risen Star by 10 lengths, but Werner said the colt continues to train strongly.

"Today he went excellent, as good as he ever has," Werner said. "He was going so good today we decided to let him gallop an extra mile."

Werner said Badge of Silver will have one work before the Louisiana Derby, but left the date for the breeze open.

Golani a new face to watch

European imports like Golani are the reason racing secretaries starting writing first-level allowance races that let in nonwinners of two races lifetime in addition to nonwinners of a race "other than."

Racing in France, Golani never won a maiden race, but he did win a Group 3 stakes race at Saint Cloud in March of 2001. Imported to this country last summer, Golani had trouble in a first-level turf allowance race last fall at Churchill Downs, finishing second, but he had little trouble disposing of an allowance field here on Jan. 27.

The turn of foot Golani showed in the stretch that day points him out as a prime contender in Monday's ninth race, a second-level allowance with a $40,000 claiming option. Golani faces 11 rivals in a race at about 1 1/16 miles.

Trainer Steve Asmussen believes Golani can be a horse of high quality. "I've been impressed with both of his races so far," Asmussen said. "He's a very easy-going horse, pretty genuine in that regard. He's been nothing but fun so far."

Golani has no early speed and settles far behind the pace before winding up for his stretch run. But an absence of pace players Monday could turn the race into a European-style slow-early, fast-late, kind of race - just as Golani likes it.

o As of Saturday, Fair Grounds racing officials had seven confirmed starters for next Sunday's New Orleans Handicap. They are Balto Star, Best of the Rest, Bonapaw, Booklet, Learned, Mineshaft, and Valhol. Fair Grounds still hopes to attract shippers from California for the race.