03/25/2004 1:00AM

Placid Star outshines foes in Sarah Lane's Oates

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If Placid Star runs as fast on turf as on dirt, her 12 opponents in the Sarah Lane's Oates Handicap probably are running for second. And if she does not, Placid Star still might win the $100,000 Sarah Lane's Oates, the Saturday feature at Fair Grounds.

On dirt, Placid Star has handled all challengers, and handled them pretty easily. Three weeks ago she won the $75,000 Battler Star Handicap by two lengths; a month before that, she took the $125,000 Louisiana Premier Star by 3 1/2; her second start was a comfortable win over Louisiana-bred allowance horses; you can imagine what Placid Star did to statebred maiden claimers in her career debut.

Four starts, four wins for , who is owned by James McCurry and Sam David, and trained by David. All have come on dirt; now a step into the unknown, the world of grass racing. David, for one, has been around too long to offer predictions.

"I'm a big believer in the angle you can't really tell how they'll handle grass till they get out there and try it," David said. "We sat around all week and talked about the reasons why she would. But you really don't know."

What might have come up is Placid Star's proven ability to rate and finish, a prized quality on grass. Also under discussion might have been her pedigree: Placid Star's grandfathers are Dixieland Band and Risen Star; that's good grass breeding by Louisiana-bred standards.

Indeed, the common factors handicappers apply to first-time turfers point out Placid Star, who need not run any better Saturday than she has been running in order to win. Seven of her rivals in the Sarah Lane's Oates have faced her before, never with any success. Three others are recent graduates of the maiden-claiming ranks, and none broke through with the sort of blowout win Placid Star scored in her debut.

is one of the few not to have lost to Placid Star, but if you like her, you probably prefer Young Emotions, who beat Placid Star in a statebred entry-level turf allowance on March 6. Young Emotions is 2 for 2 on grass, but Kaitlin's Rocket looks even better.

Kaitlin's Rocket began her career with losses in five dirt sprints, but switched to a turf route March 1, she led at every call and was running faster at the finish than the start, scoring an eight-length victory. If left alone on the lead again, Kaitlin's Rocket has a shot to upset the favored Placid Star.