02/22/2005 1:00AM

Pawyne Princess surviving


NEW ORLEANS - Gamaliel Vazquez experienced the worst feeling a horse trainer can know last Sunday, that harrowing moment when your stable star falls on the track in the heat of battle. Pawyne Princess was carrying the hopes of Vazquez and owner Michael Gill down the Fair Grounds backstretch in the when she was pulled up in distress.

Vazquez sprinted across the infield in the black suit he had worn for the winner's circle, but now his mind was focused on only one thing. "I was just trying to save her," he said Monday as he replayed the events of the day over in his mind while standing in the paddock. Pawyne Princess fractured both sesamoid bones in her left front leg. Jockey Carlos Marquez Jr.'s quick action in pulling up Pawyne Princess may have prevented her from further aggravating the injury.

Vazquez thinks the injury might have been indirectly caused by an incident that occurred earlier in the race, when Family Business ran up behind Pawyne Princess on the clubhouse turn and clipped her heels.

"I didn't see it happen from where I was standing," said Vazquez, "but she was cut up in her back leg really bad. I think maybe when she straightened out down the backstretch it might have stung her and she may have shifted her weight to her front legs, which is when it happened."

Track veterinarian Dr. Tom David put her leg in a splint and Pawyne Princess was vanned back to the barn.

"I spent the night with her to see if she would pull through," said Vazquez, his eyes reddening with tears. "It was a very long night; it's been a very difficult day. She was real good overnight, she didn't seem to be in pain. She handled the splint very well. She was quiet, she ate her food, drank some water. She's a really smart filly and I think she realized what was going on."

Once Vazquez got her through the night he began to nurture hopes that she could be saved.

"She was good this morning, so we called our clinic in Kentucky," he said on Monday. "They said they would see what could be done, so we sent her up there earlier today. Mr. Gill said to spare no expense to save her. We don't want to race her again, we just want her to live."

The injury was particularly distressing because Pawyne Princess had been an impeccably sound filly, according to Vazquez.

"She never had any problems whatsoever," he said. "It's heartbreaking, you get so close to a horse and something like this happens."

Cast a long shadow

Shadow Cast entered the Fair Grounds meet as only one of many good runners in trainer Neil Howard's barn, but has emerged as one of the brightest stars on the grounds. She completed her work here last Saturday, running her unblemished record this winter to three victories in three stakes starts, two on the turf, one on dirt.

In December Shadow Cast scored a handy victory in the Pago Hop Stakes on turf, then won the Truly Bound Hadicap on dirt. Her latest score, in the Grade 3 Bayou Breeders' Cup Handicap, was her most emphatic triumph, as she swooped up the rail in the stretch of the 1 1/18-mile turf stakes en route to a two-length victory.

Jockey Robby Albarado has measured her improvement along the way, and her performance in the Bayou Breeders' Cup left him grasping for superlatives.

"It's so good to have that dirt-grass versatility," said Albarado. "It truly is wonderful, and with fillies, that distance [1 1/8 miles] tends to separate them."