01/10/2008 12:00AM

Steve's Double goes for four in a row


Ronny Werner first made his mark on the national Thoroughbred scene training precocious 2-year-olds, but his work with the 4-year-old gelding Steve's Double is of a completely different nature. The focus here has been getting Steve's Double to slow down and relax. And so far, so good.

Steve's Double won a pair of one-turn races, including the Grade 3 Perryville, last fall in Kentucky, then won his first two-turn race in the Dec. 1 Tenacious Handicap at Fair Grounds. Four easy workouts later, Steve's Double is ready to try for his fourth straight win in Saturday's $100,000 Louisiana Handicap, one of six stakes on the card.

"This one's a little bit tougher than the last," Werner said. "Is two turns going to be his best thing? This is another stepping-stone."

Eight others were entered in the 1 1/16-mile Louisiana. This race leads to the Mineshaft and New Orleans Handicaps, when the heavier hitters start showing up, but even here, Steve's Double faces not only more challenging competition, but a potentially tougher pace scenario.

In the Tenacious, he stalked a pokey half-mile pace of 49 seconds and change, but the presence of Slew's Tizzy, Port Clyde, and Silver Lord should assure legitimate early fractions this time.

Still, Werner thinks Steve's Double can adapt. "I really feel like he can. The way he's been relaxing for us, I really like the way he's going."

Steve's Double turned back Crossword in the Tenacious, but Crossword came back to win a fourth-level allowance race on Dec. 24, and has since turned in two solid works.

"We made a little adjustment with his blinkers, and the race last time was kind of an experiment with that," trainer Neil Howard said. "I thought he ran a good race."

If the pace Saturday is quicker than in the Tenacious, that's a plus for Crossword, who rallies from behind, and has never been worse than third in six Fair Grounds starts.

The old war-horse Sandburr, who won this race last year, enters off a nice comeback win in Texas-bred stakes competition at Sam Houston, and has four timed workouts since.

"He may be 9, but I think he's better right now than he was at this time last year," trainer Mike Stidham said.

Slew's Tizzy won the Lexington Stakes and the Lone Star Derby last spring, but is winless in six starts since. Slew's Tizzy drew the rail, and jockey Miguel Mena must decide whether to use Slew's Tizzy's speed, or take back.

"What we really need is some racing luck," said trainer Greg Fox.