02/02/2008 12:00AM

Talk Fast brings good form into Mardi Gras

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NEW ORLEANS - As the rest of New Orleans turns their thoughts from catching beads to getting out of traffic jams, New Orleans horseplayers turn their thoughts to Tuesday's Mardi Gras Stakes.

The Mardi Gras, a 5 1/2-furlong turf sprint for 3-year-old fillies, has nine entrants, including the promising Talk Fast, who ships in from Turfway Park for trainer Daniel Smithwick after winning her last two races on Polytrack.

"I talked to the owner, Mr. David Ross, and we though she might like the grass," said Smithwick. "That's one of the reasons that we claimed her - we thought she might move up on the turf."

If Talk Fast takes a step up on her move to the turf, she will be tough to be beat. Claimed by Ross and Smithwick for $30,000 in a maiden claiming race at Churchill Downs, she has been spectacular in two races for her new connections.

In her first start for Smithwick, she won a $50,000 maiden claiming race at Turfway Park by 13 1/4 lengths. She came back from that to win a first-level allowance at Turfway by 8 1/2 lengths.

Those margins were impressive, but the competition in the Mardi Gras will be several steps above the horses she has defeated, and she will have to contend with a new surface.

Already familiar with the footing is the Dallas Stewart-trained Cloudburst, who won her maiden on this turf and at this distance in her last outing, wiring the field and coming home three lengths ahead in a maiden special weight.

The wild card in this race is the import Sweepstake, running for the first time in America. A winner of two races in Great Britain, and third in a Group 3 race there, she was purchased after her last race and brought to the States.

Sweepstake has been training forwardly in the mornings, including her last workout, a five-furlong bullet on Jan. 28. Her connections believe she will eventually race two turns, and are seeing this race as a chance to evaluate their filly.

"We just want to see what we have on our hands," said trainer David Carroll. "The jockey will be told let her break, leave her alone, and finish up nice, hopefully in front."