01/13/2005 12:00AM

Pace may hinder Honor in War

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NEW ORLEANS - The Lecomte and Tiffany Lass, for 3-year-old colts and fillies respectively, are the star events on Saturday's Road to the Derby Kickoff Day card at Fair Grounds. But it will be the two wide open turf handicaps, the Col. Bradley and the Leggio Memorial, that power the all-stakes pick four.

The 1 1/16-mile Col. Bradley drew 11 starters after the defection of highweighted G P Fleet. Likely favorite is a 6-year-old multiple graded stakes winner, but he did not win a race in seven 2004 starts.

"He's doing very well," said Randy Martin, assistant to trainer Paul McGee. "We wanted to give him a prep race for this, but we had to scratch him the other day when the race was rained off the turf.

"He hasn't won in over a year now, and it does a world of good for them to win a race. They're like people, they get frustrated with losing. If he's on his 'A' game he'll win."

Honor in War's biggest problem may be that there's not much pace in the race to set up his one-run finish under jockey Carlos Marquez Jr. There's no real speed entered, making it likely that Xirius, Northern Scene, Colorful Judgement, or Sea Dub will end up the reluctant leader over a track notoriously unkind to front-runners.

showed the ability to rate close to the pace in his return last month following a 16-month layoff due to a suspensory problem, and easily defeated fellow Bradley entrant Justlikedawg. That versatility should give jockey Gerard Melancon a tactical advantage in the Bradley.

also fits this spot well, and is coming off a powerful optional-claiming score over Bradley entrant Rapid Proof two weeks ago. America Alive is doing so well that trainer Neil Howard entered the colt at the last minute despite his reluctance to run a horse back so quickly.

won his only start over the Fair Grounds grass easily. False Promises was 0 for 7 in 2004, but won the Grade 3 Hawthorne Derby in 2003.

Compared to the Bradley the 5 1/2-furlong Leggio looks like an Indy car race, packed with speed from end to end. Probable favorite Dyna Da Wyna, 9 for 15 on turf, likes it up front, but so does Our Love, who is 2 for 2 on the grass, Ambition Unbridled, Speedy Sonata, and Dattts-dawayilikeit.

Shaunavon, conditioned by Josie Carroll, should be in a perfect position to repeat her facile score over Black Escort, Ambition Unbridled, and Mocha Queen at the same distance last time out.

"She's been a very good filly all along, but she went very easily that day," said Carroll. "She ran very well up in Canada, then we brought her to The Meadowlands, where she had an excuse for her poor performance in the Witches Brew because she stumbled at the start. She's been a very honest filly."

The question mark in the race is Tara's Touch, a 6-year-old South African-bred mare who is a multiple stakes winner there. She is making her first U.S. start after being off since November 2003 and shows a bullet work at Payson Park for her return.

New Zealand-bred Ahuriri Hikawai has won only one race in nine U.S. starts. Shari's Gold Sole and Beautiful Bets have never won on the grass. Stirrin Up a Storm, a 5-year-old mare, has never even run on grass and trainer Bubba Cascio may just be looking for the race to come off the turf.