01/16/2008 12:00AM

Speedsters may do each other in


Trainers Cody Autrey and Bret Calhoun basically frequent the same racing venues in Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Kentucky, and both have owners who participate heavily in the claiming game. At the ongoing Fair Grounds meet, Autrey, who started hot, has 25 wins, while Calhoun, who has gotten hot, sits at 23. Their rivalry will have an especially specific dimension when Inomuff and Time for Etbauer square off in the featured ninth race on Friday in New Orleans.

The race, for third-level allowance horses or $50,000 claimers at six furlongs on dirt, drew a modest field of six. Inomuff, trained by Calhoun, drew the rail, while the Autrey-trained Time for Etbauer will break from post 2. On paper, the pair appear to be on a collision course from the start.

Inomuff, who just finished third at the class level, has been the first-call leader in her three most recent starts, and Time for Etbauer almost always goes to the front. It's hard to imagine either horse radically altering her running style on Friday, and their early efforts could set the race up for someone coming from off the pace. Of the two speed horses, Inomuff is preferred. Time for Etbauer has been competing at slightly lower class levels, and she looked at least slightly beyond her best with a fading third-place finish in her most recent start.

Inomuff, however, got cooked by a fast opening quarter-mile when she raced Dec. 30, with Sweet Ambition rallying for second. Sweet Ambition also returns for the Friday feature, and may even be favored for the blockbuster trainer-jockey combo of Steve Asmussen and Shaun Bridgmohan. But Sweet Ambition is no cinch, either, even with a favorable trip. She won just once in 11 starts during 2007 - her lone victory coming over just two rivals in a minor stakes race at Turf Paradise- and she went only 1 for 8 in 2006.

A much longer price figures to be had on Nonesuch Kiss, who might have a chance at an upset. Nonesuch Kiss finished a distant eighth behind Sweet Ambition's second in her most recent start, but that was not Nonesuch Kiss's best race.