01/11/2005 12:00AM

Three-year-olds in spotlight


NEW ORLEANS - The new generation of 3-year-old colts and fillies takes center stage Saturday at Fair Grounds in the first stakes races around two turns at the meet, the Grade 3 Lecomte for colts and the Tiffany Lass for fillies.

The races, the first in a series of 3-year-old stakes leading up to the Grade 2, $600,000 Louisiana Derby and $300,000 Oaks on March 12, are part of a four-stakes program that also includes the Col. E.R. Bradley Handicap at 1 1/16 miles on the turf for older horses, and the Dr. A.B. Leggio Memorial Handicap at 5 1/2 furlongs on the grass for fillies and mares. Each of the four races carries a $100,000 purse and will be part of a $250,000-guaranteed pick four.

The Lecomte will feature the meet's most impressive maiden winner, Biloxi Palace, who followed up with a mile-and-40-yard allowance victory at Fair Grounds. Trained by Daniel Peitz, the Seattle Slew colt shortened stride after surging to the lead in his first try at two turns.

"I don't know if he was pulling himself up or he didn't like the track," said Peitz. "He'll be better for the experience."

Storm Surge, winner of the Sugar Bowl stakes at Fair Grounds at six furlongs and the seven-furlong Lone Star Juvenile on the Breeders' Cup undercard, will try to master two turns, which proved beyond his scope in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club stakes at Churchill Downs in November. Trainer Dallas Stewart believes Storm Surge, an Overbrook Farm homebred by Storm Cat, has the scope to handle the distance.

"I don't see any reason to think he won't be able to run in distance races at least up to 1 1/16 miles," said Stewart, referring to the distance of the Louisiana Derby.

Other probables include the Steve Asmussen-trained Smooth Bid, winner of the Remington Park MEC Mile; Major League, winner of the Harrah's Juvenile at Louisiana Downs; Silver Haze, another who has won around two turns; and Munificence, undefeated in two starts.

Punch Appeal tops Tiffany Lass

Multiple stakes winner Punch Appeal heads the field in the Tiffany Lass. A Florida-bred daughter of Successful Appeal, Punch Appeal is trained by Asmussen. She is coming off an impressive front-running victory at a mile in the $250,000 Delta Princess at Delta Downs.

Punch Appeal won five stakes races as a 2-year-old, including the Kentucky Cup Juvenile Fillies at Turfway Park.

Enduring Will, winner of the $100,000 Silver Spring Breeders' Cup at Lone Star Park, could be her main challenger. An Irish-bred daughter of Arch out of the Theatrical mare Jodie Faster, Enduring Will demolished the field in the Silver Spring, winning by 10 lengths. She was being pointed to the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies but was scratched because of a lung infection.

"If Enduring Will can outrun Punch Appeal, she'll have a chance to win the race," said Asmussen.

Others in the Lass include Chubbs Last Call, who has won three in a row; the Louisiana-bred The Beter Man Can, a multiple stakes winner in restricted company; and Emmy's Storm, who is coming off a maiden victory.

G P Fleet's absence a relief

Several contenders in the Col. Bradley were undoubtedly glad to see that trainer Steve Flint opted to run G P Fleet on Sunshine Millions Day at Santa Anita over the Bradley. Candid Glen finished second to G P Fleet in an off-the-turf allowance race last out, and Honor in War chased G P Fleet home at Churchill Downs in the Grade 3 River City his last out.

Candid Glen, winner of the Grade 2, $650,000 Explosive Bid Handicap in 2003, returned to the races impressively earlier in the meet for trainer Andrew Leggio Jr. after more than a year on the sidelines.

Honor in War raced seven times without a win in 2004 but picked up a few checks in stakes races, including a second-place finish in the $600,000 Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland.

Multiple stakes winner Colorful Judgement, a 5-year-old Deisis gelding, won the Grade 2, $250,000 Sky Classic Handicap at Woodbine last year.

False Promises won the Grade 3, $250,000 Hawthorne Derby in 2003 but was up the track in eighth in G P Fleet's River City Handicap score. Northern Scene won the Sport City Handicap at Louisiana Downs. Multiple stakes winner Sea Dub's biggest victory was in the Independence Handicap.

Dyna Da Wyna tops Leggio

The speedy Dyna Da Wyna is the probable favorite in a group of 12 fillies and mares nominated for the Leggio. A 6-year-old Doc's Leader mare trained by Richard Scherer, Dyna Da Wyna has won four stakes, including the Grade 3 Valley View at Keeneland. Our Love is 2 for 2 on turf, including a score in the Majorette Handicap at Louisiana Downs.

Gill has pair in Thursday feature

The featured race on Thursday's Fair Grounds card, a $40,000 optional claiming race at 5 1/2 furlongs for older horses, is similar to a Dec. 17 race with the same conditions. Forty Milito, part of an entry trained by Gamaliel Vazquez for owner Michael Gill, won that race and now comes back for a claiming price. He is coupled with Northern Air.

Rahy's Secret, who finished second to Forty Milito that day, returns as well, along with the pacesetter, Anaf. G.W.'s Deputy, who was second in the Total Rewards stakes at Louisiana Downs last year, and Parker Run, who won an entry-level allowance last time out, appear to be the main rivals.