09/18/2003 11:00PM

Pie N Burger unproven on grass

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BOSSIER CITY, La. - Pie N Burger, who has won his last four starts, will try to transfer his sharp form to turf in Sunday's $100,000 Louisiana Downs Handicap, a 1 1/16-mile race that has drawn a deep field of older horses, including last-out stakes winners Pay the Preacher and Skate Away.

Pie N Burger, the 123-pound highweight, has taken no prisoners since he arrived in this region in April. He won an allowance in his first start here, then reeled off dominating wins in the Grade 3, $300,000 Lone Star Park Handicap, the $60,000 Bob Johnson Memorial, and the $75,000 Evangeline Mile.

But to keep his streak alive, he will have to handle turf, a surface he has run over just once, finishing fourth in a sprint stakes.

"If he runs the same way he does on the dirt, he'll be hard to beat," said Cole Norman, who trains Pie N Burger. "We did work him on the turf, and he seemed to get over it well."

The threats to his streak include Pay the Preacher, who makes his first start for trainer Michael Dickinson. He, too, has made limited starts on turf, with his one win on grass coming against optional claimers in April.

Pay the Preacher will be making his first start since October, when he won the $100,000 Spend a Buck Handicap over Best of the Rest. Recently, Pay the Preacher has been training sharply on turf in Maryland.

"He's a sweet horse with a ton of courage," said Dickinson, who has given the mount to Kirk LeBlanc.

Skate Away is more accomplished on turf than those two, but ran on dirt last time when rains forced the $125,000 DeBartolo to a sloppy main track at Remington. He relished the going, taking the lead after a half-mile and winning by 8 1/4 lengths to earn a career-best Beyer of 102.

"The fact that he ran the race of his life didn't surprise me at all because that's how good he was doing going into it," said Jeff Trosclair, who trains Skate Away. "He's training just as good now as he was going into that one."

Trosclair looks for a different kind of pace setup Sunday.

"There's probably four or five speed horses in this race, but I think he's a horse that can run his own race and if the pace is too fast he doesn't need to be up on the front end," said Trosclair.

Also in the field is Warleigh, a $100,000 claim by trainer Steve Asmussen, and local stakes winners Storybook Kid, Maysville Slew, Rebridled, and Crook.