02/08/2003 1:00AM

Posse tops strong day of racing


NEW ORLEANS - In general, Mondays have been slow days at Fair Grounds this season, but though this Monday card lacks numbers there is plenty of quality.

The day starts with a 3-year-old filly maiden race around two turns, and has a solid core with a 3-year-old allowance sprint in race 7 followed by a full field of turf allowance horses in the eighth and upper-level filly and mare sprinters in the ninth.

Trainer Dave Kassen has the horse to beat in the first, Beach Plum, who stretched to two turns for the first time on Jan. 12 and finished second, beaten a half-length. Beach Plum worked a solid half-mile on Feb. 2, and in a short six-horse field her route speed will come in handy. But Beach Plum may have to hold off Cozzmic Wonder, a Neil Howard-trained filly who debuted Jan. 16, finishing sixth of 12 in a strong maiden sprint. Cozzmic Wonder is bred top and bottom for turf, but a route race of any sort - even on dirt - may serve to move her form forward.

The seventh, a five-furlong second-level allowance, drew only six entries, including two from trainer Steve Asmussen. The one that counts is Posse, who won a Grade 3 stakes last summer and was a close fourth in the Grade 2 Sanford before he went off form late last year. Freshened since early December, Posse shows steady works and probably outclasses his opponents.

Darts and crystal balls may be the handicapping methods of choice in the eighth, an entry-level allowance that drew 12 entries. There are far fewer in the featured ninth, a third-level filly-and-mare allowance race with a $75,000 claiming option. These are the leftovers that didn't run Saturday in the $75,000 Pan Zareta, and only Brown Eyed Beauty enters with truly solid form. She won a six-furlong dirt race two starts ago before checking in second on grass last out to the crack turf sprinter Leslie's Love.

Jadada breaks losing streak

Jadada won the Grade 3 Fayette Handicap in October 2000. He also won the ninth race at Fair Grounds on Friday. Between those two races were 23 other starts, all of them losses.

"It gave me a thrill yesterday," trainer Mitch Shirota said Saturday morning. "I was starting to wonder if he'd ever win a race again."

It was a valid question. Shirota said he turned Jadada out at a Florida farm shortly after the Fayette win; when Jadada came back, he wasn't the same horse.

Jadada, now an 8-year-old, was the cornerstone of Shirota's small Kentucky-based operation in the late 1990's. He regularly held his own in lower-level graded stakes and upper-level allowance races in Kentucky, and the long dry spell hurt Shirota.

"It was frustrating," he said. "He's always been like a pet around the barn."

Friday, Jadada raced for a $75,000 claiming tag in an off-the-turf race. Under Shane Sellers, he split horses in upper stretch and finished strongly to win by 1 3/4 lengths.

Just like in the old days.