02/04/2009 1:00AM

Sir Rabbit tries again at same level


NEW ORLEANS - If you judge the horses in the featured ninth race Friday at Fair Grounds by the company they've recently kept, go ahead and circle Sir Rabbit.

In a second-level turf allowance race also open to $40,000 claimers on Jan. 15 - the same class level as the Friday feature, which will be run over about a mile - Sir Rabbit beat seven horses and lost to one, and that one, Diamond Tycoon, looks like a player in the Grade 3 Fair Grounds Handicap here Saturday. With no similar foe lurking, Sir Rabbit qualifies as the most likely winner Friday - provided he can repeat his most recent performance.

And that's the great unknown, isn't it? Sir Rabbit runs for a tag in these optional claimers, and his form swings back and forth like any 6-year-old claimer's. Just five weeks before the good second to Diamond Tycoon, Sir Rabbit clunked home seventh at the same class level. In his favor, however, is a fondness for the local turf: in seven starts on it, Sir Rabbit, from the barn of Al Sider, has three wins and a pair of seconds.

Sir Rabbit was one of 12 horses in the main body of Friday's ninth, with two more stuck on the also-eligible list and, clearly, there are many different ways to go.

Cape San Blas was second to subsequent repeat winner Get Rich Quick racing under this allowance condition Dec. 26. Ablaze With Spirit, from Steve Asmussen's barn, kept to stakes racing throughout his 3-year-old season, earning more than $230,000. Woodbourne smartly won an entry-level Fair Grounds turf allowance on Nov. 21, but tossed in a clunker last time out. Fifty Five nibbles on the corners of real success; Embossed used to run in Grade 1's.

And as longer shots go, one could do worse than George's Cigar, who makes his turf and two-turn debut for trainer Ralph Nicks. A winner in his first two career starts - spaced over more than a year because of injury - George's Cigar was ambitiously spotted when he finished sixth in the Thanksgiving Handicap here last fall. His second-place finish Dec. 27 in a dirt-sprint second-level allowance represented improvement, but Nicks still believes there's more in the tank.

"I'm not sure how much he likes the main track here," Nicks said. "I think he's a better horse than what he's shown, and since he has run well on Polytrack, we thought we'd try turf."

George's Cigar is trying new things. Sir Rabbit is just trying to hold serve.