01/12/2006 12:00AM

Snowdrops towers over Bayou foes


BOSSIER CITY, La. - When you think Louisiana Downs, the French trainer Christophe Clement seems about a light year away. But the Clement-trained Snowdrops may feel right at home here Saturday in the Bayou Breeders' Cup Handicap.

A solid Grade 3 turf horse approaching a half-million dollars in career earnings, Snowdrops should be heavily favored to win the Grade 3, $250,000 Bayou, a 1 1/8-mile grass race.

mainly has plied her trade up and down the East Coast, winning nine times on turf, but she has been to Louisiana before, scoring a sharp victory in the 2003 Pago Hop at Fair Grounds and starting a personal four-race winning streak. Snowdrops comes off a good win Dec. 3 at Calder in the Grade 3 My Charmer, where she came from the back of the field in a paceless race to win by a half-length over the good mare La Reina. Brice Blanc comes in to ride.

Snowdrops has seven rivals in the Bayou, and on paper none of them can finish with her. But Black Rock Road would have a chance at an upset if she progresses after a Dec. 28 allowance win on this course, her first start in three months, and first in the stable of trainer Al Stall. Snowdrops might look formidable, but this spot was marked on Black Rock Road's calendar several weeks ago.

"We were going to run in this race no matter what, so we never summed up the competition," said Stall.

The 5-year-old has won 5 of 8 starts and clearly has talent, but she is not the most straightforward of fillies.

"She's a horse that kind of waits when she gets to the lead," Stall said. "I don't think she's a big finisher - she's more a steady, keep-them-at-bay-horse. We're in good shape. It'll be a question if she has the class to fit in with this bunch."

Six-time grass winner finished fourth in the off-the-turf Furl Sail Handicap in her most recent start, but won an open allowance race over this course early in the meet. Lenatareese ships in from Kentucky for trainer David Carroll, and has a decent stretch punch at her best.

Kenner BC: Norman has four

Trainer Cole Norman managed to send out a remarkable 842 starters during the 2005 racing season, and he has thrown a net over Saturday's Duncan F. Kenner Breeders' Cup Handicap, entering four of his horses in the nine-horse field.

Norman, however, is not rushing to endorse any single member of his quartet, none of whom has raced since September. The $250,000 Kenner, Norman said, is the only race in the region right now for his high-class sprinters, and he's running them as much to sort out their paths in the coming months as to sweep the superfecta - though that result is not entirely implausible in the six-furlong race.

"We're gonna see how fit these four horses are," Norman said. "We'll try to keep them out of each other's way and hope one of them can get there."

The Norman-trained horse that has been away the longest, Beau's Town, also is the best racehorse of the bunch. Beau's Town won 9 of his first 12 races, and captured the Grade 2 Bing Crosby during the 2003 Del Mar meet, but he has not raced since Nov. 24, 2004, and is coming back from surgery to remove a bone chip from his ankle.

"We gave him a lot of time, but there were some bumps on the road that we ran into along the way," Norman said. "He's getting older, and you wonder if that minor surgery is going to hurt him."

Top Commander, who won the Count Fleet at Oaklawn last year, has been away since finishing fifth in the Bing Crosby last summer, and Norman expects to see him on the lead Saturday. Sixteen-time winner That Tat and Grand Bank both figure to stalk the early pace.