12/29/2004 12:00AM

Stewart has prime stock ready


NEW ORLEANS - Dallas Stewart had every reason to smile Wednesday morning outside of barn 4 on the Fair Grounds backstretch. He had just watched his string of in-form runners go through their morning exercises as they prepare for the next three months of competition in Louisiana and beyond.

Stewart, who won 13 races at Fair Grounds during the 2003-04 meet, has already won seven races here and has a few more in his immediate sights.

"We're running well right now," said Stewart. "We just entered Colonial Colony in the Louisiana Handicap Friday, we've got Hot Storm in the Letellier Saturday. Crimson Stag will be going in the Crescent City Derby Jan.8."

Stewart, 45, is on track for his best meet at Fair Grounds, where he has ranked among the top 12 trainers for the last six years. A native of McComb, Miss., Stewart spent 11 years working with D. Wayne Lukas before going out on his own and was top assistant when Lukas saddled the winners of six consecutive Triple Crown races.

The horse in Stewart's barn that everyone is talking about is the 2-year-old colt Storm Surge, an Overbrook Farm homebred by Storm Cat out of the Mr. Prospector mare Especially. Storm Surge tracked a hot pace and won the $60,000 Sugar Bowl Stakes easily at Fair Grounds last Friday.

"He came out of that race in excellent shape," said Stewart. "We're hoping at some time in the future to stretch him out. The first time we tried him around two turns didn't work out so well."

That was in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club on Nov. 27, where Storm Surge finished sixth as the favorite after a rough trip. He may well have bounced in that race after turning in the race of his life in his previous effort, a victory in the $100,000, seven-furlong Lone Star Juvenile on Breeders' Cup Day.

Storm Surge has shown promise since his first start, when he won his maiden at Churchill Downs on May 29. He came back in the Grade 3 Bashford Manor at Churchill July 5, finishing second by a neck, then won an allowance race at Saratoga on Aug. 4 before being buried in the Grade 1 Hopeful two weeks later. He returned after two months off with his impressive score in the Lone Star Juvenile.

The horse Storm Surge beat in the Lone Star Juvenile, Spanish Chestnut, returned to win an allowance race at Santa Anita Monday and is now being pointed to the San Rafael Stakes.

Storm Surge is scheduled to compete in the local series of stakes for 3-year-olds: the Grade 3 Lecomte Stakes at a mile on Jan. 15, the Grade 3 Risen Star Stakes at 1 1/16 miles Feb. 12, and the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby at 1 1/16 miles March 12.

"The Lecomte is his next race," said Stewart, "but the Louisiana Derby would be his ultimate objective. We're hoping a mile and a sixteenth will be within his scope."

Stewart knows how to train 3-year-olds to win these Kentucky Derby preps. In 1999, he trained Louisiana Derby winner Kimberlite Pipe. In 2001, he won the Risen Star Stakes with Dollar Bill. During the 2002-2003 Fair Grounds meet, Stewart trained Saintly Look to win the Sugar Bowl and Lecomte stakes.

* Brook Hawkins has been named the new stakes coordinator at Fair Grounds. Hawkins, who had been serving as one of the placing judges at Fair Grounds, will begin his new job on Saturday. Jason Boulet, the former stakes coordinator at Fair Grounds, recently accepted a position as racing secretary at Evangeline Downs.