03/08/2003 12:00AM

Pleasant State fits in turf allowance


NEW ORLEANS - The major part of trainer Eleuterio Martinez Jr.'s long weekend in New Orleans will have been completed when Monday's Fair Grounds program rolls around. Martinez was to have saddled Winning Fans Sunday in the Grade 2, $750,000 Louisiana Derby.

Martinez's runner figured an outsider Sunday, but he's right in the middle of Monday's ninth race feature, a third-level turf allowance for fillies and mares with a $75,000 claiming option.

Martinez's Pleasant State comes off a fourth-place finish in a Sam Houston stakes race and fits the spot.

Martinez's whole trip is cast in shadow, regardless of the outcome. Ramon Flores trained both Winning Fans and Pleasant State, but was killed in an auto accident last month in Texas.

Flores was based at Sam Houston, and Pleasant State is making her third trip from Texas to New Orleans this winter. Pleasant State raced here opening week and finished third in a higher-class allowance race than Monday's.

Back a month later in the Furl Sail Handicap, Pleasant State was overmatched and finished ninth. But Pleasant State finished second in an optional claiming race here Jan. 25, a race she hardly had a fair chance to win. Bag of Stars set a tepid pace that day and had too much left for Pleasant State to make a dent in her lead.

The challenge Monday may come from Golden Rhythm, who, like Pleasant State made her most recent start in the $50,000 Jersey Lilly at Sam Houston. While Pleasant State checked in fourth and Golden Rhythm was eighth, Golden Rhythm has done something that Pleasant State has not - win a race over the Fair Grounds turf course.

The race is confusing enough as it stands, but a move to the main track because of rain would induce even greater chaos. Temis rallied to finish second here Feb. 17 in a race rained onto the main track, but there were only six horses in the field and she was beaten almost four lengths.

Another race of interest Monday is the seventh, a first-level allowance sprint for 3-year-old fillies. Blues in Seattle is the probable heavy favorite, and deservedly so. She returned from a long layoff here Feb. 9 but ran into Lovely Sage, who wore her down in a sustained stretch duel. Lovely Sage finished fifth in Saturday's $350,000 Fair Grounds Oaks.

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