03/12/2005 1:00AM

Rush Bay lands in easier spot


NEW ORLEANS - Trainer Tom Amoss decided to pass on the Louisiana Derby with Rush Bay, but he found a nice spot for him on Monday's Fair Grounds card. Rush Bay will be the prohibitive favorite in the feature race, a $50,000 optional claimer for 3-year-olds that have never won a race other than maiden or claiming.

Rush Bay had been training sensationally up to the Louisiana Derby, but with allowance conditions still available, Amoss took the more cautious course of putting some experience into the talented Cozzene colt. Rush Bay has a habit of taking a while to get untracked and will get blinkers for the 1 1/16-mile race to sharpen his concentration.

Rush Bay will line up against six rivals of varying experience. General Charley is the most accomplished, with a second-place finish against Texas-breds in the Jim's Orbit Stakes.

Trained by Michael Stidham, General Charley will be ridden by Corey Lanerie.

The Neil Howard-trained and regally-bred New Haven Harbor may pose the biggest threat to Rush Bay. Haven Harbor ran well for second at six furlongs in a $50,000 optional claimer earlier this meet and is getting first-time Lasix Monday. Robby Albarado rides.

Gully Washer won at first asking, then flashed speed in this condition four consecutive times, holding on a little better each outing. He made a big jump last time, coming on after he was passed to regain the lead before settling for second. He's Royal Dee followed him home in fourth that race. Scott's Cat and Parker Valley are coming off maiden victories.

* G P Fleet had his final tune-up on Saturday for this weekend's Grade 2, $500,000 Mervin H. Muniz Jr. Handicap at 1 1/8 on turf. Trainer Steve Flint sent out G P Fleet for a half-mile breeze. "I caught him in 48.1 [seconds]," Flint said. "It was just an easy half-mile to take the edge off him. If he continues to do this good, I'm happy no matter what the outcome."

The Muniz is expected to attract such top turf runners as Honor in War, America Alive, Candid Glen, A to the Z, Burning Sun, Colorful Judgement, Doctorate, Salford City, and Social King.