01/16/2009 12:00AM

Stewart and his horses raring to go

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NEW ORLEANS - Dallas Stewart emerged from quarantine looking to make up for lost time. After three weeks of being prohibited from racing and only being allowed to train after the general population had finished, Stewart had the equine herpesvirus quarantine on his barn lifted Thursday.

With the ban removed, Stewart entered two horses for races at Fair Grounds on Sunday. He will now also be allowed to send Macho Again to Gulfstream for the Jan. 24 Sunshine Millions.

Stewart's horses, along with those of Neil Howard, who also is stabled in Barn 4, had been quarantined since Dec. 26, after a filly trained by Stewart tested positive for equine herpes. The quarantine was lifted when the results of a Jan. 13 retest of the 66 horses in the barn came back negative for all.

"Our meet is just starting," Stewart said Friday. "It's nice to be able to train your horses again in a really proper way."

Stewart's first starter Sunday will be Blackberry Road, who will race in the sixth race, a six-furlong allowance. He has more class than most in the race, with a pair of second-place finishes in graded races.

He campaigned last year at the Fair Grounds as a 3-year-old, finishing second in the Grade 3 Lecomte and fourth in the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby.

He had two works during the quarantine period, and Stewart feels he's ready to break a three-race streak of third-place finishes.

"He's jumping out of his skin, ready to run," Stewart said.

Stewart's big horse, Macho Again, is now cleared to travel and will begin his 4-year-old campaign in the Sunshine Millions Classic at Gulfstream. He worked five-eighths here Friday in 1:02.80.

Macho Again finished second to Big Brown in last year's Preakness and defeated Pyro in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy. He finished sixth when trying turf for the first time in the Woodchopper here Dec. 20.

"He worked really good today, he's training great," Stewart said Friday. "He looks like he's really on top of his game."

Lecomte 1-2-3 to rematch in Risen Star

The top three finishers in the Grade 3 Lecomte - Friesan Fire, Patena and Au Moon - are being pointed toward a rematch in the second big race of the meet for 3-year-olds, the Grade 3 Risen Star on Feb. 7.

The winner, Friesan Fire, went back to the track Wednesday, galloping for trainer Larry Jones.

"He came out of the race well," Jones said. "I expect I'll give him one blowout work before the Risen Star."

The one-mile Lecomte was Friesan Fire's first victory since his maiden win, though he finished third in the Grade 2 Futurity last September at Belmont.

Patena, the second-place finisher in Lecomte, looks well-positioned for the rematch in the Risen Star. He was closing fast and will get an extra sixteenth of a mile in the Risen Star to try and turn the tables on Friesan Fire.

"Short of winning, I couldn't be any happier with the race and what he did," trainer Josie Carroll said. "He did everything we asked him to do."

Carroll was pleased with how Patena came out of the race. The Lecomte was his first start on dirt after three Polytrack starts and one turf race at Woodbine.

"He came out of the race really well and ate everything up that night," Carroll said. "We're going to aim for the Risen Star, and I am sure he will like the added distance."

The pacesetting role in the Lecomte unexpectedly fell to Au Moon, who set moderate fractions before tiring to third, four lengths behind Friesan Fire.

Trainer David Carroll had entered Au Moon in the Lecomte looking for an indication of Au Moon's ability to handle longer distances and two-turn races.

As a distance experiment, the race was inconclusive. Carroll would have preferred his horse to make a closing run.

"He broke sharp and nobody went," Carroll said. "He came out of the race very tired, so hopefully next time we can get him covered up."