03/05/2003 12:00AM

Stall's filly questionable at distance


NEW ORLEANS - San Diego Sue was rained out of a turf race here Feb. 17, and the concerns trainer Al Stall had going into that start pertain to Friday, when San Diego Sue is scheduled to run again.

San Diego Sue was one of 13 entered for Friday's ninth race, a first-level allowance at about 7 1/2 furlongs on grass. Ten of the 13 horses entered will be permitted to run if the race remains on turf.

Though San Diego Sue looked good winning a one-mile turf race here Jan. 18, Stall fears Friday's distance is too short for his filly. On the other side of the spectrum is Joyce Ann, who comes into this start sharper than any horse in the race, but unproven beyond sprint distances.

Nagging problems have curtailed San Diego Sue's career, said Stall, who trains the 4-year-old filly for owner B. Wayne Hughes. San Diego Sue has never suffered a serious injury that required a lengthy recovery period, but minor problems have limited her to five races. She's won two starts - her career debut Oct. 1 at Arlington and the turf allowance here, which was her first start in nine months. San Diego Sue has trained without a hitch since then, and for the first time she might be poised to bring consistency to her form.

San Diego Sue has little speed, and jockey Frank Lovato can be expected to drop her straight in for position after breaking from post 9. In her recent win, San Diego Sue launched a rally behind a slow pace and sustained it for more than three furlongs to beat eight rivals while going away.

Joyce Ann needed 11 tries to win a maiden race, but she enters Friday's race in the finest form of her career. Off from July to January, Joyce Ann worked swiftly for her comeback race Jan. 10 and ran to her breezes, finishing second behind Stonington, who returned to narrowly miss in a stakes race. Joyce Ann's first-level allowance win at six furlongs on dirt Jan. 31 was dominant, as she sat comfortably behind a moderate early pace, took over on the far turn, and cruised to a 5 1/2-length win.

Joyce Ann tried turf twice here last season, fading in the stretch both times, though she held on for third in a turf sprint. But Joyce Ann clearly has learned something about racing since then, and the new improved filly on display here early this year might be capable of much more on grass than she showed a year ago.

for Fair Grounds entries.

:: Subscribers: to purchase past performances for Fair Grounds.

:: Non-subscribers: to purchase past performances for Fair Grounds.