03/04/2010 1:00AM

Silver City looks as fast as ever


There are eight 3-year-old fillies entered in the $60,000 Sarah Lane's Oates, and 14 3-year-old colts and geldings in the $60,000 Gentilly, both turf-route races for Louisiana-breds. That's all well and good, but Silver City is entered in race 8 on Saturday at Fair Grounds, and talent-wise, he's the star on a 10-race program.

Silver City hasn't started since last April 25, when he turned in his second straight disappointing performance of the spring, a fifth-place finish in the Derby Trial at Churchill. Before the Derby Trial came an attempt to harness Silver City's brilliant speed and make him into a route horse. After it came a lengthy layoff as Silver City recuperated from two injuries, a bone chip in his ankle that needed surgery to be repaired, and an injured suspensory ligament that required time to heal.

Both injuries, trainer Bret Calhoun said Thursday, haven't troubled Silver City during preparations for his comeback in a third-level allowance race. And what preparations they have been. Breezing at Sam Houston, Silver City turned in works of 57.80 seconds for five furlongs, and 1:11.20 for six furlongs, both in early February. At Fair Grounds, he worked five-eighths in 58.80 seconds Feb. 10, a drill more than a second faster than Rachel Alexandra's the same morning, and on Feb. 25, Silver City went a half-mile from the gate in 46.20 seconds.

"He doesn't look like he's just all out, but he's got a high cruising speed, and he won't slow down too much," said Calhoun. "It's been scary on my part to sit there and watch him go that fast every week coming back from some significant injuries. He's done so good, been so sound, I don't think about it much any more."

Silver City, a 4-year-old Unbridled's Song colt owned by Clarence Scharbauer Jr., makes his comeback at six furlongs, and has won 3 of 4 starts over sprint distances. He held on for second after setting the pace in the one-mile Southwest Stakes last winter at Oaklawn, but Calhoun said Silver City will be kept to sprints.

"We won't be trying to rate him much," Calhoun said. "You just try and get him relaxed the best you can."

As for the Louisiana-bred 3-year-old turfers, Candy Delicious might rate a narrow edge over New Elite in the filly race, the Sarah Lane's Oates. Candy Delicious only has one win to her credit, but has run two good races over the local turf course.

The 14 horses in the Gentilly have combined to notch a grand total of two turf victories. Heavenville is the race's most accomplished horse, with almost $170,000 in earnings, but has never raced beyond seven furlongs, and never has started on grass.