02/26/2004 1:00AM

Seattle Fitz gets in yet more mileage


NEW ORLEANS - Thursday afternoon, Seattle Fitz was riding on a van somewhere in Alabama or Mississippi. How blase.

This is a horse who was bred and raised in Argentina, and taken as a 2-year-old to Dubai, where he was sold and began his career. He immigrated to this country less than a year ago, and already has run at six different racetracks. The last of them was Gulfstream Park, where Seattle Fitz turned in the best performance of his life, finishing second to Medaglia d'Oro in the Grade 1 Donn Handicap.

Almost four lengths behind him in the Donn was the horse traveling beside him Thursday, Funny Cide. The race made Seattle Fitz look like a serious player in the handicap division, a position he can cement Sunday with another big effort, this time in the Grade 2, $500,000 New Orleans.

The pair of Deep South van travelers comprises 25 percent of the prospective New Orleans Handicap field. Funny Cide and Seattle Fitz are to arrive at Fair Grounds very early Friday morning. They will join Sir Cherokee from Oaklawn Park, Peace Rules and Ten Most Wanted from California, and the Fair Grounds-based horses Saint Liam, Spanish Empire, and Comic Truth in Sunday's race.

Seattle Fitz, still a 4-year-old on Southern Hemisphere time, was one of about 15 young horses sent from Argentina to help fill out the racing program at Nad Al Sheba racetrack in Dubai. These 2-year-olds, along with others from North America, went into a 2-year-olds-in-training sale with a $60,000 ceiling placed on all purchases. The idea, according to Seattle Fitz's trainer, Kiaran McLaughlin, was simply to get more horses into circulation in the country.

McLaughlin, training in Dubai at the time, said Terry Finley of West Point Thoroughbreds attended the sale and spotted Seattle Fitz, whom he purchased and sent to McLaughlin. The horse who was supposed to be filler quickly revealed himself as something more.

"He always showed a lot of ability," McLaughlin said. "He is by far the best horse to come out of that sale. It's exceeded any expectations the way he's developed. It's been a fairy-tale story."

Seattle Fitz made six starts in Dubai, winning twice, but racing without consistency. To a lesser degree, the same thing has happened in the United States. Seattle Fitz has run into some tough competition, but has mixed decent races with dazzling ones. He won a Belmont allowance race in late September by more than 10 lengths, but came back to finish third in the Fayette Handicap at Keeneland and fourth in the Clark at Churchill.

Whether his Donn was a one-hit wonder or a harbinger of stardom remains to be demonstrated. Seattle Fitz doesn't mind hitting the road to do so.

Badge of Silver's next uncertain

Badge of Silver, fifth in the General George Handicap on Feb. 16 at Laurel, put in a strong gallop on Thursday morning at Fair Grounds, and is nearing his first breeze since his disappointing trip to Maryland.

The joke around trainer Ronny Werner's barn is that Badge of Silver is so mad about losing, he has been banging his head against the wall - literally. Indeed, hairless patches dot Badge of Silver's handsome head, and the colt is itching to get back out and do some real running.

When and where he will get a chance to do so is unclear, Werner said. Badge of Silver remains under consideration for the Grade 1 Carter Handicap at Aqueduct, but no plans are set.

"He needs to get over this thing first," Werner said. "We need to get that spring all the way back in his step."

Werner said he intends to give Badge of Silver plenty of time between starts all year. "I want to space them out six to seven weeks if possible," he said.

Extra turf race on card

Saturday's seventh race looks like the delayed second division of Tuesday's Mardi Gras Handicap. The Mardi Gras was rained off the turf, so the racing secretary, Ben Huffman, put up an extra race and got back the horses who scratched because of the surface switch. Eight were entered in the grass race carded for about 1 1/16 miles on turf, and the field is stakes-quality.

Royal Spy, Storybook Kid, Great Bloom, and Holy Conflict all have established credentials, but it will be especially interesting to see what Herculated does in this race. Herculated, one of the horses to scratch from the Mardi Gras, has impressively won a pair of allowance races this meet after missing six months with an injury.

His trainer, Mike Stidham, said he wasn't concerned about the four-day delay in Herculated's start. "He's had a couple nice open gallops," Stidham said. "He ought to be fine."

Stidham said he has no specific plans for Spectacular Lisa, a sharp winner of the Chou Croute Handicap last weekend, her third straight victory. Spectacular Lisa will run next in a graded stakes, but which one is uncertain. "We're going to nominate to everything and shop around," Stidham said.

Steady Course joins Oaks field

Steady Course's exciting allowance victory in her first try around two turns has landed her a spot in the Fair Grounds Oaks, according to trainer Dallas Stewart. Steady Course will put in her final work for the race in the coming days, Stewart said, and will start if all goes well.

Shadow Cast and Quick Temper, one-two in the Silverbulletday Stakes, are expected to run back in the Oaks.

LeBlanc likely out rest of meet

Kirk LeBlanc, tied for ninth in the jockey standings here with 25 wins, broke his right wrist in a spill during training hours Thursday morning.

The injury will require surgery, according to LeBlanc's agent, Tony Martin, and LeBlanc seems certain to miss the rest of the Fair Grounds meet. LeBlanc's meet here got off to a slow start because of an injury to his hand.

Cloud Walker may go in Pelleteri

Cloud Walker rebounded from the first loss of his career with a sharp second-level allowance win last Friday, and might make his next start in the $125,000 Pelleteri Handicap here on March 14.

"What I really thought was impressive was what he did from the half-mile to the five-eighths," said trainer Tom Amoss. "That was 11 [seconds] and change, and that's something you don't often see. I think that signifies you have a pretty good horse."

Out of My Way, who won the Taylor's Special Handicap on Sunday, is unlikely to run back in the Pelleteri.

"That would be a little too quick back," said Greg Geier, who earned his first stakes win as a head trainer with Out of My Way's win.