11/29/2007 1:00AM

Steve's Double tries to stretch again

EmailIf Steve's Double can run as well around two turns as he has around one, he ought to win the Tenacious Handicap on Saturday at Fair Grounds.

But that small word "if" has large implications. Steve's Double's lone two-turn race actually came at Fair Grounds, in his career debut last Feb. 12. He finished ninth of 10 in a race that clearly wasn't a true billing of his ability, but it's no coincidence that Steve's Double hasn't been asked to negotiate that second bend in his six starts since.

During that time, Steve's Double has developed steadily, winning a Saratoga allowance race two starts ago, and capturing the Grade 3 Perryville at about seven furlongs on Keeneland Polytrack last time out.

The $60,000 Tenacious, a 1 1/16-mile dirt race that drew a moderate field of seven, will help trainer Ronnie Werner decide what path to plot going into 2008.

"We're just trying to see if he can stretch," he said. "We might as well find out, and if not, he's not a bad colt going seven-eighths or a one-turn mile."

Steve's Double, ridden by Jamie Theriot, breaks from the outside post, and has shown enough speed in shorter races to suggest he'll be close to the pace. Tepexpan, third in this race last year, and Speedway both figure to show speed, too.

"We've been really working with him sitting off horses, and he's been handling things well," Werner said. "That first turn and that first quarter, we've got to get through that and work from there."

If Steve's Double can stalk and pounce, he can win, but if he begins getting wobbly in the long Fair Grounds stretch, the Tenacious could fall to Crossword. Crossword has climbed the allowance ladder without any particular flash, but has won before over the Fair Grounds track, and looks good enough to capture the Tenacious. Crossword's recent form seems better on dirt than turf, and his sixth-place finish last out on the Keeneland grass course has to be seen in the context of racing surface.

Moreover, that Oct. 12 start was Crossword's last appearance, and all of Crossword's best recent efforts have come after a freshening. "That seems to have been a trend with him, and hopefully that will work this time," said trainer Neil Howard.

Of the others, Kinoko Man and Catmantoo are taking major steps up in class, and Cielo Gold has turned in two clunkers since capturing the Indiana Derby in October 2006.