12/03/2003 12:00AM

Stidham's duo are perfectly spotted


NEW ORLEANS - Trainer Mike Stidham does awfully well winning entry-level allowance races. Especially on turf and especially at Fair Grounds. Thursday, he takes two swings under those conditions.

The Stidham barn, which won an entry-level sprint allowance opening weekend with Cabo Sunrise, has a Gary Bisantz-owned horse for both divisions of a first-level grass allowance. American Son is no worse than second choice in the seventh race; Salvino is an unknown quantity in the ninth. Both races, at about 1 1/8 miles, are scheduled to go with eight starters.

American Son is a strapping chestnut by Royal Academy with a long, ponderous stride. He was second in his career debut last summer at Arlington, won second time out, but was fifth of 10 in a 12-furlong marathon Aug. 28, the last time he raced.

American Son turned in a surprisingly strong five-furlong dirt work of 59.60 seconds in his final breeze for this comeback race, and on raw form alone, he fits the spot. He is also running for the first time since he had laser surgery to correct a breathing problem, and he seems like an improved horse.

"He was a questionable throat horse even when he made his first start," Stidham said. "His last race, he completely shut his air off. He was making a noise before, but now he's not. Maybe we fixed it."

American Son has one major challenger, Fehr, who is two races removed from a third-place finish in a Belmont Park turf allowance. Trained by Danny Peitz for Shadwell Farm, Fehr raced over this course last season in his second career start and finished sixth, but he improved significantly during a steady Belmont summer and fall campaign.

Salvino, Stidham's horse in the ninth, also has New York form, an even eighth-place finish in an entry-level turf allowance July 5. But that was Salvino's lone start in this country, and his English form is difficult to read. Salvino won his maiden by 11 lengths at Haydock, but that was 18 months ago, and in a race contested over a boggy course.

"He's a big, good-looking horse, and he's been training well, but that's about all I can tell you," Stidham said.

That may be enough. It will not take a superstar to win the ninth, which on paper, appears to be a weaker version of the seventh race. Atticus Forever has stale allowance form from California but was in different hands when he produced his best races. The others exit claiming company or have long struggled to clear their first allowance condition.