01/04/2008 12:00AM

Royal Diana tries new things


If the competition wasn't impressive, the time wasn't bad. Royal Diana won her first time out, beating Alabama-breds in the Dec. 13 Kudzu Juvenile Stakes, going six furlongs in 1:11.17 on the main track at Fair Grounds.

While she will face tougher company than Alabama-breds in Sunday's feature race, a first-level allowance for 3-year-old fillies going 1 1/16 miles on the turf, Royal Diana cannot be discounted.

"Of all the 2-year-old fillies I've run here, she ran the fastest of any of them," said her trainer, Larry Jones.

For her second race, Jones has given her two variables: her first turf attempt and increased distance. The turf attempt was not his intention, but he wanted to find a race for her.

"It's not the perfect scenario for us, especially with speed not prevailing on the grass course," said Jones. "Getting her to relax and not burn herself out will be our biggest challenge."

If Royal Diana is speedy out of the gate, she will have to avoid a duel with Rose Is a Rage.

Rose Is a Rage finally figured it out last time, winning by 16 lengths in a $25,000 maiden claiming race. Whether his newfound skills will translate to the turf is an open question, as his two attempts on turf have been decent but not spectacular.

Another who figures to have a shot at the winner's circle is Girl Named Sam, who ran second two races ago in an allowance at Churchill Downs. In her last effort she finished fourth, beaten 12 lengths on the main track at Fair Grounds, not her favored surface.

"I'm glad to get her back on the turf," said trainer Hal Wiggins. "I'd like her to lay off the pace a little bit and make a run. Hopefully, she'll have a better finish."

While Wiggins is happy to have Girl Named Sam back on the turf, rain is predicted, and the race may be moved to the main track.

If the race is moved, Royal Diana would have one less variable to overcome. Another who stands to benefit is the Ronnie Werner-trained Democrat Taxes.

Her last race was a third-place finish in allowance race on the dirt at Fair Grounds. She was beaten 6 1/2 lengths that day, but Werner believes that she may prefer the dirt.

"I don't know about the grass," said Werner. "It took her a while to get over that last race. She has come around and is training well."