12/21/2004 12:00AM

Smooth as Silver fastest of fast

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NEW ORLEANS - Smooth as Silver registered the fastest six-furlong time of the Fair Grounds meet Sunday, going the distance in 1:10.03 and beating stablemate Big Bold Sweep by a nose in the feature race, an optional claimer worth $36,000. He was awarded a 102 Beyer Speed Figure, 1 point shy of his career best, earned in September at Mountaineer Racetrack.

Robby Albarado waited patiently aboard the 4-year-old Smooth as Silver behind dueling leaders Premium Saltine and Wildcat Shoes, who set wicked opening fractions of 21.75 and 44.92 seconds into a strong headwind. Wildcat Shoes won the battle on the front end through five furlongs in 57.10, but had nothing left to turn back Big Bold Sweep and Smooth as Silver.

Tom Amoss, who conditions both Smooth as Silver and Big Bold Sweep for different owners, watched Smooth as Silver win the close decision. Wildcat Shoes finished three lengths behind in third.

"He loves this track," Amoss said of Smooth as Silver, who has won three of his four starts over the Fair Grounds strip. "Robby knows him well. He's got some quirks. But when I saw that horse pushing [Wildcat Shoes] I knew we had a chance."

Albarado had been concerned that Wildcat Shoes might have his own way on the front end, so he was happy to see Premium Saltine play the rabbit's role.

"When I saw them go down the backside like that, I thought, 'This is sweet,' " said Albarado. "He softened him up just enough."

Lady Tak points to Sunshine Millions

Lady Tak resumed her training schedule in earnest Monday morning at Fair Grounds after getting some time off following her last race, a second-place finish in the Grade 2 Churchill Downs Distaff Handicap on Nov. 2.

Trainer Steve Asmussen sent out the 4-year-old Lady Tak for an easy half-mile breeze in 52.60 seconds in preparation for her next start, the $300,000 Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Sprint on Jan. 29 at Gulfstream Park.

Lanerie riding in top form

Koo Bear was ignored by the betting public in last Sunday's fifth race, where he went off at 28-1. But he had jockey Corey Lanerie on his back, which made him worth a long look. Sure enough, when the 6-5 favorite Fortywon Thirtysix started to falter in the stretch, Koo Bear put in a tremendous rally down the center of the track to win by three-quarters of a length.

Koo Bear was Lanerie's second winner of the day. He also won the second race on Admiral West. Altogether he has won 17 races this season at Fair Grounds, placing him second in the standings behind Robby Albarado.

"The horse was a longshot, but he ran well for me," said Lanerie as he walked back to the jockeys' room, his sand-splattered face sporting a wide smile. "It's weird how things seem to fall into place for you when you're going well. I'm going to enjoy it now because I know tomorrow it can all go away.

"Things are going really well for me right now. I'm just rolling with it, because it seems like when you're doing good it kind of snowballs. I'm getting on live mounts."

The 30-year-old Lanerie finished second in the jockey standings at Fair Grounds in 2002-03 and fifth in 2003-04. He won four riding titles at Lone Star Park (1999, 2001-03).

Stewart heats up with training double

Trainer Dallas Stewart posted a consecutive double on last Saturday's card, winning the seventh race with Hot Storm and the eighth with Corporate Ladder. Both winners returned $9.20. Stewart is now 5-3-3 in 14 starts at the this meet.

Hot Storm, a 2-year-old Stormy Atlantic filly ridden by leading jockey Robby Albarado, won a high-priced optional claimer by 7 1/2 lengths in the sixth race.

Corporate Ladder, an Overbrook farm homebred by Editor's Note and ridden by Larry Melancon, took over the lead three wide coming out of the far turn and held on stubbornly to win by a half-length.