12/19/2003 12:00AM

Saintly Look to play sprint game

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NEW ORLEANS - There was good news and bad from trainer Dallas Stewart's Fair Grounds barn this week, with Saintly Look revving up for stakes racing here, and Mach Speed, a highly regarded 2-year-old colt, resting on a Kentucky farm, unlikely to run during the Fair Grounds meet.

Saintly Look came to prominence at Fair Grounds last season, with wins in the Sugar Bowl and the Grade 3 Lecomte. But after losses in the Louisiana Derby and Lane's End, Saintly Look broke a blood vessel in his hind leg. The injury is rare and requires substantial rest to fully mend.

Saintly Look went to a farm in April, and an attempt was made to bring him back early in the summer. But the leg began to swell, and he didn't return to training until August.

His first start back was excellent - a narrow loss to the classy Eugene's Third Son in a Nov. 22 allowance race at Churchill Downs. The time for 6 1/2 furlongs was an eye-popping 1:14.60, and Stewart plans to keep Saintly Look in sprint races, with his next start to come Jan. 11 in the Colonel Power Handicap.

"He looks like a sprinter-miler," Stewart said. "I think trying to get him to go farther would be beyond his limitations."

For now, Mach Speed isn't going anywhere. Mach Speed came out of a fifth-place finish in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes with a "wrenched muscle," according to Stewart. Mach Speed, an Overbrook Farm homebred by A.P. Indy, overcame a troubled trip to win his maiden in his second start.

"He needs some time," Stewart said. "It puts him in trouble for the stakes races down here."

Stewart does have Steady Course, a 2-year-old filly whom he plans to start in the Jan. 3 Thelma Stakes.

Caro's Royalty gets better with age

Do not tell Caro's Royalty that American racing revolves around 2-year-olds. Caro's Royalty was 2 sometime around the Stone Age. Thursday, with his 11th birthday looming, he easily beat a solid field of $17,500 claimers in a 5 1/2-furlong grass race.

The victory was the 20th in 79 starts for Caro's Royalty, trained by Wes Hawley and owned by Greg Frye, who trained him before sending him to Hawley for the Fair Grounds meet. Caro's Royalty once was a stakes horse, and his $9,600 check this week edged him closer to $600,000 in career earnings. He has never fallen below $15,000 claiming races, and the performance Thursday was his sharpest in several seasons.

"He doesn't seem like a 10-year-old," Hawley said. "He seems more like a 5-year-old. I think that was his best race in years."

Caro's Royalty has been a one-run closer, a turf-sprint specialist, and it is rare that an old horse like him suddenly shows speed. But Thursday, he contested a solid early pace, then drew away to win by 1 3/4 lengths.

"He's aging. The question is, can he do it again?" Hawley said. "It all depends on how he feels on a given day. If his arthritis is acting up, he might not fire."

Nightlifeatbigblue has look of a good one

On paper, Thursday's eighth race looked like the strongest 2-year-old maiden race of the meet, and if that is true, Nightlifeatbigblue is a colt to watch.

Nightlifeatbigblue was sharp out of the gate and dueled for the lead through quick splits. Even so, he was still finishing fastest and was pulling away from favored Storm Sizzle at the wire. Nightlifeatbigblue won by three-quarters of a length, running six furlongs in a solid 1:10.68.

Nightlifeatbigblue, a Formal Gold colt owned by Mr. and Mrs. Fletcher Gray, ran once in the spring but came up with tender knees and was turned out for the summer.

"We thought if we went on with him he'd have trouble somewhere down the line, so we backed off," said trainer Bobby Barnett. "It seems to have worked out."

Barnett said Nightlifeatbigblue could come back in either another sprint or a route. "With him, we'd probably run in whichever race came up," Barnett said. "It looks like he'd have no trouble with distance."

Great Notion gets much-deserved rest

Great Notion, whose strong season ended with an 11th-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Sprint, is being turned out on a Kentucky farm. He will return to training in about a month, however, and point for a spring campaign, said trainer Darrin Miller, who has several horses stabled at Fair Grounds.

"He's on a little bit of a break," Miller said. "He came out of the Breeders' Cup well, but it seemed like it was due time to give him a rest."

Miller hasn't started making plans for the upcoming season but plans to try Great Notion on turf.

"I'd think he'd be a really nice miler," he said.

Intrinsic Worth gets another shot

Intrinsic Worth was washed out of an excellent spot last weekend, when an entry-level turf allowance that he entered was moved to the main track because of rain. But in Sunday's ninth race, the nominal feature here, Intrinsic Worth has an excellent chance to beat eight opponents in another first-level allowance, this one at six furlongs on dirt.

Intrinsic Worth was fifth of six last out in the $150,000 Houston Texan Juvenile and finished a distant third two starts ago at Keeneland. But Intrinsic Worth, owned by Pin Oak Stud and trained by Mike Stidham, has shown talent since mid-summer and should appreciate the long Fair Grounds stretch.

The logical contenders Sunday are the Steve Asmussen-trained Palpen, a winner of his only start, and Exploited Storm, ninth in his lone try with winners but a decent fit in a race heavily populated by horses that have started in claiming races.