03/15/2005 1:00AM

Skip Irish tough on grass

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NEW ORLEANS - Hunch bettors and lovers of superstitions will be lining up to bet Skip Irish in Thursday's seventh race at Fair Grounds, a $17,000 starter allowance for 4-year-olds and up at 7 1/2 furlongs on the grass.

has already won four races at Fair Grounds in 2005, all $10,000 starter allowance races. The first three were on the turf, the last an off-the-turf dirt race.

"He's an honest, consistent horse," said trainer Steve Asmussen.

"He's the No. 7 horse in the seventh race on St. Patrick's Day, and his name is Skip Irish," said owner Kendall Hansen. "How can this horse lose?"

Indeed, Skip Irish, a 4-year-old Skip Away gelding, seems perfectly spotted in here, with five wins in nine turf starts and a 3-1-0 record in four starts on the Fair Grounds grass, making him the most accomplished grass horse in the field. Donnie Meche will ride him once again.

appears to be the main threat. A 6-year-old Binalong gelding, Connywithay was claimed by trainer Richard Scherer out of a $25,000 victory on the Fair Grounds turf, where Connywithay is a respectable 1-1-1 in 4 starts. Only two others in the race have won on the turf. Power Brew, a 4-year-old Leo Castelli gelding, has a win and a second-place finish in four grass starts.

Hansen admits to being superstitious about Skip Irish.

"When we took him to Chicago and gave him to Steve Asmussen to train, the first race he ran in he was the 10 horse in the 10th race on October 10th," said Hansen. "He won by a head."

The feature race on the card is also on the grass, a 5 1/2-furlong, $33,000 entry-level allowance sprint for 4-year-olds and up. From the looks of it, Skip Irish might well be able to beat this unproven group of grass runners as well. is the only horse in the race with a grass win to his credit. He does have a pronounced case of seconditis, filling the runner-up spot in 6 of 17 lifetime starts, including twice on the grass. Major Blast is another horse who likes to hit the board without winning, with an 0-3-1 record in five grass tries. Popularize is coming off his best attempt in three turf starts, a fast-closing second over this track.

Several horses in the race who have yet to run on grass have pedigrees that suggest they may take to the turf at first asking. Urblockinme is by Shot Block, a Relaunch sire. Raise Right is by Clever Trick, and Elusive Jazz is by Elusive Quality.