12/27/2007 1:00AM

In slow finish, Inca King was fastest

EmailInca King showed a new dimension winning the Woodchopper Handicap on Monday at Fair Grounds - kind of.

A free-running winner of five previous starts in 2007, Inca King raced behind horses in the Woodchopper and won by a neck with a late surge after being pulled to the middle of the course in midstretch by jockey Shaun Bridgmohan. It was a game victory, but also one aided by the race's slow final quarter-mile time of about 25.20 seconds. Inca King came home somewhat faster than that, but might need to learn to settle earlier if he's to beat better horses while racing from off the pace.

"He's tugged hard early in his races, and it's a little bit of an issue," said trainer Steve Asmussen. "If he'd take a little bit of a breath the first quarter, that would be nice."

Asmussen himself hasn't taken a breath from stakes wins. He and Bridgmohan won four straight on Saturday's card before capturing the Woodchopper on Monday with odds-on Inca King. Now, it's Inca King who isn't likely to get a long breather between starts, since Asmussen said Inca King would be nominated to the $100,000 Colonel E. R. Bradley Stakes on Jan. 12.

Meanwhile, Curlin, as planned on Monday, had his first two-minute lick since resuming training following a post-Breeders' Cup freshening. Asmussen said he had timed Curlin in 58.90 seconds over a half-mile, and that Curlin would "look to do the same thing again Monday."

Not just a cup of coffee for Sacco

First-time Fair Grounds trainer Greg Sacco had his family in town for the holidays, and was reached the day after Christmas while sampling the beignets at the famous French Quarter coffee market, Cafe du Monde. It's a typical family activity for New Orleans newcomers - but Sacco isn't in town just to take in the sights.

Sacco will have 15-20 horses at Fair Grounds all meet, most of them live to some degree. Thus far, he

has 2 wins and 2 seconds from 11 starters. On Saturday, in the Furl Sail Handicap, Prop Me Up, one of the Sacco stable stars, takes her turn.

Prop Me Up probably is headed to the breeding shed early in 2008, but not until she starts in a Sunshine Millions race next month at Gulfstream Park, Sacco said. To get her there with a race under her belt, Sacco has entered her in the Furl Sail, a 1o1/16-mile grass race that drew a full, competitive field.

"She's run well on the turf, but naturally, with her dirt record, I wouldn't mind if it came off the turf," Sacco said.

Prop Me Up comes into the Furl Sail with an unusual form pattern: three stakes victories surrounding a

52-length defeat. That ugly loss came in the Breeders' Cup Distaff, where Prop Me Up finished last of 12 in a Monmouth Park quagmire. Sacco said Prop Me Up lost a hind shoe and came back with her eyes swollen from taking mud in the face. But less than two weeks later, she won the $60,000 Red Cross at the Meadowlands by more than four lengths.

"Other than the shoe and her eyes, she came out of the [Breeders' Cup] great, which enabled us to run her back in that stake," Sacco said.

While holding his own so far, Sacco, a regular in Florida and New Jersey, said he had noted in the Fair Grounds claiming arena a level of competitiveness not seen at other venues.

"The big outfits are very aggressive here, more so than I've seen anywhere else," he said.

Silverfoot cranking up

With six breezes behind him, including six furlongs in 1:13.80 on Monday at Fair Grounds, Silverfoot is closing in on his first start since he finished ninth in the 2006 Breeders' Cup Turf.

A multiple Grade 3 winner on turf, Silverfoot, who turns 8 on Jan. 1, hasn't raced at Fair Grounds since 2004, when he won twice on the local grass.

"We're doing our best to bring him back to his youth," trainer Dallas Stewart said. "I don't really have a target date for him to come back, but it will definitely be on the turf."