02/25/2009 12:00AM

Silver City sticking to Plan A (or B)


There have always only been two options for trainer Bret Calhoun's top 3-year-old prospect Silver City, but as far as paring the two down to one, Calhoun has not gotten very far. In fact, he said Wednesday that he is perfectly content to sit back and wait to determine whether Silver City will remain at his Fair Grounds base to start in the Louisiana Derby, or ship back to Oaklawn Park for another joust with Old Fashioned in the March 14 Rebel Stakes.

"We haven't decided what we're doing yet," Calhoun said. "The races are the same day, same distance, so I'll just see how my horse does, and see how the rest of the horses that go to both spots are doing, and make a late decision."

Calhoun said he has nothing but respect for Old Fashioned, who tracked Silver City's extremely fast pace in the Feb. 16 Southwest Stakes before going on to a 3 1/4-length victory. But while Old Fashioned has a bigger reputation than any of the horses being pointed for the Louisiana Derby, that race might wind up with more depth than the Rebel, in Calhoun's view.

"You don't duck just one horse," Calhoun said. "Every horse can have an off day."

Silver City has yet to work since the Southwest, but will breeze Saturday and work again a week later, Calhoun said. Silver City has galloped nicely since the Southwest, his two-turn debut, and Calhoun said his horse's performance, which came under regular rider Miguel Mena, had left him "more optimistic than pessimistic."

Said Calhoun: "Obviously he's going to have to slow down some to continue to stretch out, but Miguel said he was extremely relaxed."

Outside the 3-year-old ranks, Calhoun has welcomed the talented 4-year-old filly Storm Mesa back into his Fair Grounds barn. Storm Mesa tailed off late last year, but showed graded stakes-class ability on both turf and dirt. Calhoun said she would make her 2009 debut in the March 14 Bienville, a Fair Grounds turf sprint, with an eye toward the Grade 1 Madison at Keeneland.

Keeneland also is the goal for classy turf sprinter Mr. Nightlinger, who is breezing at Louisiana Downs. Calhoun's other stakes-level turf sprinter, Chamberlain Bridge, could wind up at Tampa Bay Downs for his next start.

Party time for Carroll

Low-key Irishman trainer David Carroll wound up the king of Mardi Gras in New Orleans this year - the Mardi Gras Stakes, that is.

Carroll won Tuesday's Mardi Gras with Selva, and knocked off the exacta when his barn's second-time starter Fleet Streak rallied for second.

"It just worked out both ways," Carroll said. "Doesn't usually happen that way."

The Mardi Gras was a listed race, and Selva is ready to step back into stronger competition, Carroll said. A winner of her first three starts - two of them stakes - before finishing second in her two-turn debut in the Tiffany Lass in January, Selva will be pointed for the Grade 2 Beaumont at Keeneland, a seven-furlong race on Polytrack. Selva won the Glorious Song over Woodbine's synthetic track last fall, and took the Mardi Gras in her turf debut.

Another multi-surface Carroll-trained filly, Acoma, also is progressing nicely toward her 4-year-old debut. A graded stakes winner on turf and dirt last year, Acoma worked five furlongs in a sharp 1:00.60 on Monday and is on target to make the Azeri Stakes on March 8 at Oaklawn Park.

"She's a little bit over her racing weight at the moment," Carroll said. "She'll need a race to get there."

Acoma got time off over the winter after winning consecutive graded turf stakes in Kentucky to conclude a five-win 3-year-old campaign.

Diamond Tycoon stays the course

And speaking of Irishmen, trainer Andrew McKeever said Fair Grounds Handicap winner Diamond Tycoon has continued to thrive in New Orleans, and is on course to start in the $500,000 Mervin Muniz on March 14.

Diamond Tycoon already has won three grass races this Fair Grounds meet, and his fast-closing victory in the Fair Grounds Handicap might well have been the single best performance of the meet. That race was Feb. 7, and Diamond Tycoon wasted little time getting back on the work tab, going a solid half-mile in 48.80 seconds on Sunday.

"All his works from here on in are maintenance," said McKeever.

Z Fortune nears return to the races

Z Fortune, who hasn't raced since ending his 3-year-old season on a sour note in the West Virginia Derby on Aug. 2, worked five furlongs Saturday at the Evangeline Downs training center. He has joined trainer Steve Asmussen's string at Fair Grounds, and "is about a month away" from being ready to race, Asmussen said.

"He's a great big horse, and we're being cautious with him," said Asmussen.

Z Fortune won the Lecomte at Fair Grounds, and finished second in both the Louisiana Derby and the Arkansas Derby during a solid early-season run last year.