12/04/2002 1:00AM

'Storybook' exclusively a turf tale

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NEW ORLEANS - It was a year ago at Fair Grounds that trainer Alvin Sider and owner C & R Stable plunked down $7,500 to claim Storybook Kid, who had raced eight times in his career with little distinction.

Storybook Kid proved to be an iron horse, and since the claim he has made 17 starts. More importantly, he's good. Storybook Kid has won six races and well over $100,000 for these low-profile connections, and he returns to Fair Grounds with an excellent chance to win Friday's featured race, a third-level turf allowance with a $75,000 claiming option.

"I'm not going to lie to you: I do run the horse a lot," Sider said. "But I'm no butcher. He likes it. I've never seen a horse that loves to run like this. He's run his best numbers when he's coming back in six or eight days."

This time, Storybook Kid will have had two weeks between starts, but his last start hardly qualifies as a race. A Nov. 21 turf race at Hawthorne was rained off the grass, and racing officials asked Sider to stay in the race in order to make a seven-horse field. Sider complied, but Storybook Kid, a much better horse on grass, wanted no part of the cold, fast dirt at Hawthorne and wound up losing by 20 lengths.

"He doesn't like the dirt at all," Sider said. With Storybook Kid hopelessly beaten, his rider eased up, saving something for the colt's next turf race.

"He loves this racetrack," said Sider. "We've only been here a little while, but already you can see it."

Rain clouds were racing over Lake Pontchartrain to New Orleans on Wednesday afternoon, and this time, Sider said he won't even waste a start on dirt.

If the race is rained off turf, it falls right into the lap of Ask the Lord, an Al Stall-trained horse who has won two of four starts on off going and prefers dirt to turf. Racing on grass in his last start, Ask the Lord was a decent fifth at Churchill Downs, but in his previous start he had dead-heated for win with Bolt in an Arlington race at this class level.

Gene Cilio trains Bolt, and Cilio has Holy Conflict for Friday's race. Holy Conflict has mixed strong efforts with duds the last two seasons, and has struggled to clear this third allowance condition. Spicy Prospector has run well over the Fair Grounds turf course and ranks as a contender for trainer Mark Frostad.

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