03/09/2004 12:00AM

Steady Course fractures leg

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NEW ORLEANS - Steady Course made her stakes debut Saturday in the Fair Grounds Oaks, but will not be competing in any kind of race for several months. Steady Course was found to be lame on Sunday morning, and X-rays of her left hind leg revealed a condylar fracture of the cannon bone.

Steady Course's trainer, Dallas Stewart, makes a practice of staying upbeat. But Stewart's voice could not hide his disappointment at the sudden injury.

"No good," he said, when asked by phone Monday how his horse had come out of the Oaks. "She's going to Kentucky for surgery. They're going to put three screws in, and we'll see how she comes back. It's tough, but it's part of the game, man."

Steady Course raced brilliantly when she won an entry-level allowance race by more than eight lengths here Feb. 13. In the Oaks, Steady Course was left flat-footed at the break and forced farther behind the early leaders than expected. She made a bid coming off the far turn, but lost ground late and finished fourth. Stewart said Steady Course appeared well immediately after the race, but the injury was detected the following morning.

Steady Course, an Overbrook Farm homebred by Old Trieste, might be out for four months, according to Stewart.

Meanwhile, Shadow Cast, the winner of the Silverbulletday Stakes, appeared to have exited her third-place finish in Saturday's Oaks in good order, according to trainer Neil Howard. Howard said no definite plans have been made for Shadow Cast, but races such as the Grade 1 Ashland at Keeneland - perhaps the next stop for the Fair Grounds Oaks winner, Ashado - probably are not on her schedule.

Bwana Charlie shows potential

For a change, Steve Asmussen had no horses for either the Oaks or Sunday's Louisiana Derby, but Bwana Charlie looked like a stakes horse while winning an entry-level allowance race Saturday by almost 12 lengths. The racing surface played fast Saturday, but Bwana Charlie's time of 1:36.87 for a mile was still excellent, and jockey Shane Sellers sat quietly as the colt cruised across the finish.

The win made Bwana Charlie 2 for 2 as a 3-year-old, a 180-degree turnaround from his juvenile campaign, when he lost five maiden races at four different racetracks, three times as the heavy favorite.

Asmussen said he believed Bwana Charlie, an Indian Charlie colt owned by William Heiligbrodt, ranked only behind the standout Cuvee in the operation's hierarchy of 2-year-olds last summer.

"We thought he was our second-best 2-year-old at the time," he said. "We were getting ahead of him, though."

Saturday's race was Bwana Charlie's first start around two turns, and he handled the transition easily.

"If he trains as well out of his allowance win as he did out of his maiden win, we'll try a stakes next time," Asmussen said.

Three possible spots are the $500,000 WinStar Derby on March 28 at Sunland; the $100,000-added Lafayette Stakes on April 4 at Keeneland; and the $325,000 Lexington Stakes on April 17 at Keeneland.

"The deciding factor will be timing," Asmussen said.

David's hot 3-year-olds on turf

Trainer Sam David has thrown a blanket over the Louisiana-bred 3-year-old turf divisions, both male and female. On Friday, Mr. Sam and Old Lee - two colts trained by David - finished one-two in a turf prep race for the March 20 Gentilly Handicap. And on Sunday, the standout 3-year-old filly Placid Star won the $75,000 Battler Star Handicap by two lengths.

Placid Star has begun her career with four straight wins, the last two in stakes races, and is headed to the $100,000 Sarah Lane's Oates Handicap here March 28. Already she has won going around one turn and two, and David said he believes the filly's versatility and talent will allow her to make a successful transition to grass racing in her next appearance.

And all this from a horse that brought just $5,000 at auction and made her debut in a $15,000 Louisiana-bred maiden-claimer.

"We knew we were taking a little edge there," conceded David, who owns Placid Star in partnership with James McCurry. "With her pedigree, and how much she cost, it worked. The owner said he wanted to win with her first out, and that was the spot she needed to be in."

This is not the first bargain filly in David's career. Several years ago, he selected for purchase and trained the filly Blushing K.D., winner of the Fair Grounds Oaks and the Kentucky Oaks in 1997.

Quarter Horse opener on Thursday

Thursday's first post is the regular 12:30 p.m., but the program begins with a Quarter Horse race, the $119,376 Mardi Gras Futurity, before moving on to 10 Thoroughbred races.

The Mardi Gras Futurity, for Louisiana-breds at 300 yards, brings together the 10 qualifiers from a series of trial heats held here Feb. 24. Callies First Effort, Games Gambler Magic, and Toastin Dash turned in the fastest qualifying times, but the field appears evenly matched.