01/04/2002 1:00AM

Private Emblem wins on turf


NEW ORLEANS - Apparently, Private Emblem is just as good on turf as he is on dirt. Third to two promising colts in the $150,000 Houston Texan Juvenile last month, Private Emblem made his grass debut Friday in the $75,000 Black Gold Handicap at Fair Grounds and beat Royalton by a head.

By the moderately successful stallion Our Emblem, who is not known as a grass influence, Private Emblem comes from a turf-loving family. His dam, Merion Miss, has now produced four horses who raced, and all have won on turf.

Private Emblem, trained by Steve Asmussen, raced on Lasix for the first time Friday, and also rated off the early pace for the first time in a five-start career. With the likely pacesetter, War Emblem, scratched from the race, Chop Chop made a clear early lead, with Private Emblem stalking him through a moderate pace. Private Emblem ranged up to challenge turning for home, was joined close to the furlong pole by Royalton, and held off that rival in a game effort.

Private Emblem ran about 7 1/2 furlongs over firm turf in 1:31.45 and paid $9 to win. Royalton finished well clear of Native Mark, who just edged Chop Chop for the show spot. Favored Extra Check was in contention turning for home but faded to last in the nine-horse field.

for the Black Gold Handicap chart.*

* Requires Adobe Acrobat Reader.