12/21/2007 1:00AM

Steve's Double now focused

EmailNEW ORLEANS - It turns out to have been a matter of concentration for the 3-year-old Steve's Double. Winner of the Grade 3 Perryville Stakes and recent winner of the Tenacious Handicap, Steve's Double has been a changed horse since being gelded.

"Until we gelded him, he was not focused," said trainer Ronny Werner. "He was laying on horses as he was working. He couldn't beat anybody. Now he's got one reason to live, and that's to run."

Steve's Double has run extremely well since being gelded, with 4 victories in 6 races, the last two in stakes. His success in the 1 1/16-mile Tenacious was his first at two turns, and has opened up more options.

He is being pointed toward the Louisiana Handicap on Jan. 12, also at 1 1/16 miles, with plans for the Mineshaft in February, and an ultimate goal of the New Orleans Handicap in March.

Werner is convinced it was gelding the horse that that led to the turnaround.

"He's been real laid-back, real easygoing since we gelded him," said Wener. "He's all business, easy to be around."

A son of Stephen Got Even, Steve's Double was a $200,000 purchase at auction as a 2-year-old. He is owned by Art and Stephanie Preston of Oxbow Racing.

While Steve's Double has been a standout, Werner's hot beginning to the Fair Grounds meet has involved many other horses, including Tactical Weapon, who tries stakes company for the first time in Monday's Woodchopper.

Another of the barn's promising colts is The Darp, who won his maiden decisively on Dec. 14, cruising home nine lengths in front.

The Darp, a 2-year-old colt by Proud Citizen, will skip his first allowance condition and run next in the Jan. 12 Lecomte Stakes, with an eye toward the Risen Star, traditionally the last prep on the way to the Louisiana Derby.

"We're not messing around with him," said Werner.

More X-rays for Costa Rising

A routine physical examination following Costa Rising's romp in the $150,000 Louisiana Champions Day Classic has revealed that the horse has a "little spot" on his left hind ankle, according to his trainer, Glenn Delahoussaye.

A digital image didn't show a fracture, the trainer said Thursday. Costa Rising will have another set of X-rays taken on Dec. 28.

"Either we have a stress point that could possibly turn into a chip, or we've got nothing," Delahoussaye said. "If there's something there, we'll address it. If not, we'll go on."

Delahoussaye said Costa Rising is galloping. He is based at the Evangeline Downs Training Center in Lafayette, La. The horse's next scheduled start is the $200,000 Premier Night Championship at Delta Downs on Feb. 2.

Costa Rising won the Classic at Fair Grounds on Dec. 8 by 15 1/4 lengths. It was the latest dominant win for Costa Rising, who owns two of the year's highest Beyer Speed Figures.

Costa Rising earned a 118 Beyer for an allowance win at Evangeline Downs in September, and was given a 115 for his victory in the $200,000 Evangeline Mile in August. He has 14 wins in 22 starts for earnings of $861,366. Costa Rising races for Charles Castille Jr.

Talented trio's showdown put on hold

The last five races were canceled because of heavy rain Thursday, including an entry-level dirt allowance that was to feature a matchup of three promising 2-year-olds.

Sagaponack, who won at first asking on opening day; Mad Flatter, winner of a maiden sprint at Churchill Downs; and Unbridled Vicar, who has just missed in allowance company at Churchill, were all entered in Thursday's sixth race.

"We were in the paddock, waiting," said Michael Stidham, the trainer of Sagaponack. "We were disappointed, like a lot of people."

Two of the races for maidens have been rescheduled for Monday, while the allowance for 2-year-olds will be offered again next week, possibly on Friday.

- additional reporting by Mary Rampellini