12/09/2003 12:00AM

Statebreds to show their stuff


NEW ORLEANS - Slot machines have come to Delta Downs and Louisiana Downs. They're on the way at Evangeline Downs, and are likely to come to Fair Grounds, too.

What it all means is more Louisiana-breds.

Slot-machine revenues already have boosted statebred purses at Delta to historic levels, and chances are the same thing will happen across the state. Thoroughbred owners and breeders already have taken notice, and the Louisiana-bred foal crop is rising sharply each year. And what that should mean is higher-class Louisiana-bred racehorses.

How far the breed has come to date will be on display Saturday at Fair Grounds, which hosts its annual Louisiana Champions Day, with $1 million worth of purses for statebred horses. Ten stakes races are scheduled, seven for Thoroughbreds and three for Quarter Horses.

But the strength in this year's races lies with the older horses, not 2-year-olds. The $100,000 Juvenile and $100,000 Lassie figure to attract wide-open fields, and there are no established standout 2-year-olds of either sex in the state this season.

"I wasn't really looking to run my filly, but I keep asking around and there doesn't seem to be too much to be afraid of," said trainer Bret Calhoun, who plans to run Glitter Queen, a maiden winner here on opening day, in the Lassie.

A male 2-year-old named Fuzzy Fund may be tough in the Juvenile. Owned by Valene Farms and trained by B.J. Gilbert, Fuzzy Fund has easily won a maiden race and an entry-level allowance in his two most recent starts. Others to watch in the Juvenile are Nitro Chip and Spring Rade, the latter owned and trained by Lloyd Romero, of Hallowed Dreams fame.

There are strong matchups in the Sprint, Turf, and Classic. Zarb's Luck, an easy winner of the Sprint last season, squares off against the speedy Donna's Mailbag. In the Turf, Mr. Sulu and Coach Rags resume a years-old rivalry. And the $150,000 Classic features a battle between rising statebred stars Spritely Walker and Mr. Archibald, both of whom are coming off two powerful races. Prized Amberpro is the horse to beat in the $100,000 Ladies, a race she won last year, while the $50,000 Starter should have a large, competitive field.

Ole Rebel wins another for Leggio

It wasn't enough that trainer Andy Leggio upset the Tenacious Handicap here Saturday with G.W.'s Skippie, who paid $92.60 to win. Leggio came back to win the Sunday allowance feature with Ole Rebel, who paid $15.20 to win and ran six furlongs in a snappy 1:09.53.

"You've just got to have them in the right race at the right time," Leggio said.

Plans are uncertain for Ole Rebel, who ran well enough to try stakes company in his next start, but Leggio and owner Glen Warren have decided to point G.W.'s Skippie toward the Woodchopper Handicap here on Dec. 27.

Fire Slam looks to Lecomte

Fire Slam has come out of his second-place finish in the $1 million Delta Jackpot in good physical condition, and after an easy December will be pointed in earnest for the Grade 3, $100,000 Lecomte Stakes here Jan. 24. A rematch with Mr. Jester, who beat Fire Slam in the Jackpot, could come in the Risen Star Stakes here Feb. 15.

Fire Slam suffered his first defeat in the Jackpot, but he at least suggested he can be a two-turn horse after winning a pair of sprints to start his career. Fire Slam has the body type and disposition to run routes but is not especially bred for stamina.

"To me, it's still too early to tell how well he'll do at two turns," trainer David Carroll said. "He can relax, and he has a kick, so he should go a mile and a mile and a sixteenth. After that, we'll have to see."

Carroll said Fire Slam would train lightly the rest of this month and wouldn't breeze until sometime after Christmas.

Posse breezes for Malibu

Posse, fourth in the Breeders' Cup Sprint and an easy winner of the Thanksgiving Handicap in his most recent start, breezed a half-mile in 52.60 seconds here Sunday as he continues preparations for the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes on Dec. 26 at Santa Anita. Posse is scheduled to go to stud following that race.

"He went an easy half, like he always does," trainer Steve Asmussen said. "He came back from it real well. The timing for the Malibu is excellent, and his confidence is so high right now."

Asmussen also said Sister Swank, a good allowance winner here on opening day, remains on target for the Jan. 3 Thelma Stakes.

Gill's string not ready to race yet

Yes, the prominent owner Michael Gill has a string of horses at Fair Grounds, though one wouldn't know it from watching the races here. Gill's Fair Grounds horses, trained by Gamaliel Vazquez, have been in town a couple of weeks, but none have yet raced here. Vazquez said that all 18 horses have breezed once over the local surface, and that after another series of works, the horses would begin racing.

"I had a bunch of races marked in the condition book, but I couldn't run in any of them," said Vazquez. "All of the horses that worked came back tired. The stretch here is so long, you can't send a short horse out there."

Vazquez said the Florida training center at which these horses had been stabled had a much harder track surface than Fair Grounds. His stock still is getting used to the deeper going, which demands greater stamina.