01/18/2003 1:00AM

Soto to miss Triple Crown


NEW ORLEANS - The Kentucky Derby hopeful Soto is nursing a sore left shin and is off the Triple Crown trail. Winner of the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club, Soto finished his 2-year-old season unbeaten in three starts, and his connections had considered beginning his 3-year-old season in the Grade 3 Risen Star here next month. Now, Soto won't race until later in the spring and will be pointed to major stakes this summer.

Soto is in light training now at trainer Michael Dickinson's Tapeta Farm in Maryland, but a touchy shin has precluded making a serious push to bring the colt up to a race.

"He came out of the Kentucky Jockey Club with a sore shin, which was rather surprising since it was late in his 2-year-old season," Dr. David Lambert said Saturday from Kentucky. Lambert serves as racing manager for Soto's owners, a German family partnership that races under the name Gallop. Lambert participated in Soto's purchase and continues to collaborate in Soto's training with Dickinson, who was out of the country this weekend.

"While the shin has been getting better, we had to think about pushing him to make the Triple Crown," Lambert said. Soto has won two-turn races, but "on his pedigree, we decided he wouldn't be the most natural horse to stay a mile and a quarter. It's in the best interest of the horse and the owner to give him plenty of time and get him ready for the mid-summer stakes. He's a Grade 2 winner, and out next objective is a Grade 1."

Soto is a son of Dehere out of the Crafty Prospector mare Subtle Fragrance.

Seattle Hoofer comes on strong - twice

The Risen Star may have lost Soto but it picked up a major contender Friday in the late-blooming colt Seattle Hoofer, who overcame serious trouble to win a two-turn allowance by almost six lengths.

A Seattle Slew colt owned by Stonerside Stable and trained by Mike Stidham, Seattle Hoofer didn't make his career debut until Dec. 22, when he won a 1 1/16-mile maiden race by a half-length. That was a solid race, and Seattle Hoofer showed unusual determination for a first-time starter in a route race.

But Friday he was simply brilliant. Racing in midpack along the inside for the first half-mile, Seattle Hoofer suddenly made a quick move and ran up on the heels of the leaders entering the second turn. Jockey Frank Lovato had to check sharply, and Seattle Hoofer lost all his momentum. It didn't bother him a bit. Lovato shopped around for room, swung about five paths wide entering the stretch, and made the same move all over again, quickly opening up daylight on a decent field. His time of 1:41.61 for a mile and 40 yards was strong over a surface that has played slowly.

"Frankie said he didn't want to get shuffled back to last, so he let him run up inside and the horse just took off," said Stidham. "To have trouble and make two runs like that, that was pretty impressive."

Seattle Hoofer's dam is Star of Broadway, who won the Thelma Stakes here in 1998.

Grand Steal, an impressive maiden winner, was favored in the race, but had trouble and tired badly, finishing seventh.

Grass sprints galore

Monday at Fair Grounds is like a festival of turf sprinting: Three grass races have been carded at 5 1/2 furlongs. The best of them is the ninth, a third-level filly and mare allowance with a $75,000 claiming option. With only six entries the field is short, but at least well matched.

Trainer Tom Amoss has two horses for the race, and either one can win. Peace River Lady turns back from a route to a sprint after finishing a close fifth here at two turns on Jan. 4. Peace River Lady is the sort of front-running route horse who, suddenly thrust into a stalking position in a sprint, finished faster than usual.

On the rail for Amoss is Savannah Hanna, who has made 29 lifetime starts but none on grass. She won an optional claimer at the class level below this one in her last start, so her form is fine, and she is bred on top and bottom to handle the grass.

Leslie's Love was 2-5 when she was beaten in a statebred turf sprint allowance here Jan. 5, but two races ago she won the open Leggio Memorial at the same trip over this course. Brown Eyed Beauty parlayed a beautiful trip into a narrow dirt win at the class level below this one and is unproven on grass, while Nanie's Diner is a reach in this spot, and Steel Shot hasn't started since May.

Terry to miss three months with injury

The apprentice rider Dominic Terry is expected to be sidelined three months because of injuries he suffered in a spill here Friday.

Terry was riding Here Comes Amos in a 5 1/2-furlong race when his mount clipped heels less than a furlong into the race and threw him hard to the ground. Terry fell hard on his back, and was found Saturday to have a torn ligament in his neck and a fractured vertebra.