12/28/2006 1:00AM

Outperformance tough vs. age group


MIAMI - Rick Violette strongly considered waiting for the Gulfstream Park meet for the next race for Outperformance, but the veteran trainer said he could not resist the allure of running the colt one final time against 3-year-olds.

As a result, Outperformance figures as a major contender in the $100,000 Pete Axthelm, a 7 1/2-furlong turf race that is one of four consecutive stakes on the Grand Slam III program Saturday at Calder.

"Keeping him in the age group was a big factor," said Violette, "and I also think the distance is just right. A mile hits him in the head, and he's doing great. I'm operating on the bird-in-the-hand theory."

Outperformance was a logical candidate for the Ft. Lauderdale Stakes on Jan. 6, the first Saturday of the Gulfstream meet, but Violette might have made a sage choice by opting for the Axthelm. Since being narrowly beaten in a four-horse photo in his last start, the Nov. 11 Commonwealth Turf at Churchill Downs, Outperformance has had two strong drills at the Palm Meadows training center after being shipped to Calder from Violette's base in New York.

With Javier Castellano to ride, Outperformance's late-running style should be aided by a race full of speed. He breaks from post 2.

Steel the Glory, coming out of five-furlong races, looks like the logical pacesetter in a race that also drew such rapid runners as Mr. Silver, Last Best Place, and Thunder Pass.

In all, 16 3-year-olds were entered, although only as many as 12 can start in the Axthelm, which is carded as the eighth of 12 Saturday races.

Genter: Bayou's Lassie vs. invaders

The winter season invariably means that horses from New York, Kentucky, and other Northern regions are stepping into what otherwise is the domain of the south Florida regulars. And while shippers such as J'ray are here for the Grade 3 Frances A. Genter Handicap (race 10) with just such encroachment in mind, it is a local filly who might take some beating in a race that serves as the final graded turf stakes this year for 3-year-old fillies.

Bayou's Lassie, a homebred Outflanker filly owned by Jacks or Better Farm and trained by Stanley Gold, has made all seven career starts at Calder, winning five, including two turf stakes. Bayou's Lassie is part of a full field in the $100,000 Genter, which, like the Axthelm, will be run at 7 1/2 furlongs.

"She should be a force to be reckoned with," said Gold. "I know there are some horses in there, you see their connections and you automatically have to respect them. But our filly should give a good account of herself."

J'ray could rule a slight favorite. She is a member of the trainer Todd Pletcher empire that Anthony Sciametta is overseeing in Florida while Pletcher serves a suspension for a medication violation.

After winning her first four starts on turf, ending with the Tropical Park Oaks last Jan. 1, J'ray has been defeated in her last three races, although her most recent, the Nov. 18 Mrs. Revere Stakes at Churchill Downs, might signal that she is ready to end the drought. J'ray closed resolutely for second in the Grade 2 Mrs. Revere.

Other logical Genter contenders are Rasta Farian, who figures to be prominent early and for a long way; Amansara, a winner of two lesser stakes from six overall starts; Captive Melody, winner of the restricted Cesario Stakes at Hollywood Park last out; and another Sciametta trainee, Dancing Band, who makes her first start in more than three months.