03/11/2005 12:00AM

Ralla's wait for turf may be worthwhile


NEW ORLEANS - Racing secretary Ben Huffman has carded a lot of turf races during the Fair Grounds meet.

"When I was assigning stalls I thought I was at Colonial Downs, there were so many turf horses coming," he quipped.

Many of the turf races have been washed off the grass, and in some cases Huffman has been able to get the same horses back in a few days later. Sunday's co-feature is just such a race, a $33,000 turf allowance for fillies and mares going 1 1/16 miles.

Ralla benefits from the rescheduling in that she won't have to face two who recently finished in front of her, Volobee and Pad the Wallet, because they ran in the off-the-turf event. Ralla should be well bet off her impressive turf record of 7 in-the-money finishes in 11 races (3-0-4). The 4-year-old Ralla, trained by Mark Frostad, has closed for third in both of her local starts and will be ridden by Gerard Melancon.

Emma Anne could be a live longshot in this spot for trainer Mike Doyle. The 4-year-old Emma Anne won her debut at Woodbine, then was beaten only 5 1/2 lengths by repeat winners Shaunavon and Green Briar Rose. She was inexplicably pulled up in her first start at Fair Grounds, but ran well in her next start to finish third at 22-1.

Happy at Last, a 4-year-old English-bred filly by In the Wings, will make her second U.S. start after racing in Ireland at 2 and 3. Happy at Last won at first asking but couldn't repeat the performance in five tries overseas. She was an even sixth in her North American debut here, but was only about two lengths behind Ralla in that race and has worked well since.

Special Jig, by Theatrical, is bred for the turf, but both of her turf tries have been dismal.

Make My Heart Sing won her maiden at Fair Grounds last December and been idle since. She beat recent maiden winner Cabo de Noche, who returns Sunday and may have an edge in conditioning.

Contessa Slaney has been on the board in 4 of 5 turf starts without winning. Dyna's Dynamo is 0 for 6 on the grass.

Conquistador's Joy dangerous

The co-feature is a $33,000 first-level allowance for older fillies and mares at a mile on the main track. Conquistador's Joy, who controlled the pace at the same distance against $30,000 claimers last out, may well be able to work out the same trip under Lonnie Meche, a jockey with a knack for getting a front-runner home.

Pioneer Gal ran a game third at this condition after winning at first asking and should sit a stalking trip under Corey Lanerie.

Good Humor Gal, a solid performer here in the 2003-04 season, rallied for third at six furlongs in her first start in 10 months, then ran eighth trying turf for the first time, a useful conditioning move. Trainer Cody Autrey could well have the 4-year-old Good Humor Gal ready for a breakthrough performance.

Sad Cafe has run well in her last two starts. Lace Castelli returns to the main track after a couple of honest efforts on the turf. The One We Kept closed for second in her first start since August. Sugar Toes is also making her second start since August. Crown Me Later returns to Fair Grounds after winning at Oaklawn Park.

Three jockeys fined

Jockeys James Graham and Tracy Hebert were fined $1,000 apiece and Don Leblanc $500 for standing up on their mounts before the finish in the eighth race on March 5.

The race was at one mile and 40 yards, a distance that uses the primary finish line. The mile finish line, which is at the sixteenth pole, was used the race before, and Graham stood up on his mount, Slack, at the earlier line. Hebert and Leblanc followed suit on their horses, Native Combat Star and Lee's Say So.

Graham and Hebert received larger fines, the stewards said, because their actions may have affected the order of finish.

* The stewards fined trainer Bettye Gabriel $500 Friday after Kissin Beauty, third-finisher in the fourth race Feb. 18, tested positive for the anti-inflammatory medication diclofenac after the race.