03/04/2005 1:00AM

Top three races on one card


NEW ORLEANS - For the first time next Saturday, the Fair Grounds's biggest race for 3-year-olds, 3-year-old fillies, and older horses will be run on the same day. With the Louisiana Derby, Fair Grounds Oaks, and New Orleans Handicap bundled together, track management is hoping for the best day of racing of the year and perhaps the track's first $10 million handle.

With a fourth stakes race on the card, the Marie Krantz Memorial Handicap, Fair Grounds is offering a guaranteed $250,000 pick four bet linking all four races.

The centerpiece of the day's racing will be the Grade 2, $600,000 Louisiana Derby at 1 1/16 miles. A strong field is expected in this key Kentucky Derby prep, headed by Proud Accolade, who will be trying to win around two turns for the first time.

Trainer Todd Pletcher said he plans to work Proud Accolade once more in Florida before shipping Wednesday to Fair Grounds. Proud Accolade is one of several horses in the race with Kentucky Derby aspirations, but Pletcher said he is reluctant to view this strictly as a prep race.

"What seems to be lost in the equation in talking about Derby preps is that the Louisiana Derby has a $600,000 purse and is certainly an objective of its own," said Pletcher.

High Limit, an undefeated colt trained by Bobby Frankel, will be making his 3-year-old debut in the Louisiana Derby.

The top three finishers from last month's Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds - Scipion, Real Dandy, and Storm Surge - are also running.

Scipion, a California-based son of A.P. Indy, is expected to arrive in Louisiana late next week, following the same routine he utilized in the Risen Star. Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens is coming in to ride.

"We have not yet seen his best effort," said trainer Patrick Biancone.

Real Dandy, whose rousing stretch run fell short in the Risen Star, will have to improve to win the Louisiana Derby, said trainer Steve Asmussen.

"Every work is a little bit better," said Asmussen. "He's a solid competitor. He's going to have to make a huge jump forward to win this, but we've had some luck with him. We know he's going to get the distance."

The Louisiana Derby has been the destination for Storm Surge since the start of the meet. Trainer Dallas Stewart has switched jockeys for the big race, replacing Robby Albarado with Jerry Bailey.

"I don't think we're losing anything with Jerry Bailey," said Stewart. "I always thought Storm Surge would get the 1 1/16 miles. Now he's got to do it. I expect Proud Accolade will be setting a good pace in the Louisiana Derby. We'll try to have him track that and see what happens."

Rush Bay, another local horse who ran in the Risen Star, is unlikely to run in the Louisiana Derby, said trainer Tom Amoss.

The Grade 2, $300,000 Fair Grounds Oaks at 1 1/16 miles has attracted a powerful field.

Asmussen trains Oaks contender Summerly, who destroyed her field in the Silverbulletday at Fair Grounds.

Runway Model, who defeated Summerly last November in the Golden Road at Churchill Downs, will make her 3-year-old debut in the Oaks.

Earlier this week it looked as if Splendid Blended might make her

3-year-old debut in the Oaks, but trainer Neil Drysdale is likely to run her elsewhere. A final decision was withheld pending Splendid Blended's work over the weekend.

The rapidly improving Eyes on Eddy, who closed for second to Summerly in the Silvertbulletday, will also run in the Oaks.

Trainer Neil Howard said he is thinking of adding Soul Search to the Oaks field.

"We're 50-50 with her," said Howard. "She's won over this track, likes it here, and has been training well."

In the Grade 2, $500,000 New Orleans Handicap, a 1 1/8-mile race for older horses, Mineshaft winner Wanderin Boy will try to take them all the way on the front again for trainer Nick Zito.

Pollard's Vision finished second to Wanderin Boy in the Mineshaft, but it was his first outing of the year and he should improve. Trainer Bobby Frankel is bringing Badge of Silver, winner of the 2003 Risen Star, who will be favored. Colonial Colony, trained by Dallas Stewart, may not run, but Neil Howard is leaning toward running Alumni Hall, who closed for third in the Risen Star.

"We're 75-25 to run him," said Howard. "We'll see who enters. We don't want to set the bar too high for him."

Zarb's Luck tops turf allowance

Multiple stakes winner Zarb's Luck heads a field of seven Louisiana-breds in Sunday's feature race at Fair Grounds, a $38,500 allowance at six furlongs on the main track.

Zarb's Luck won the 2003 Champions Day Sprint and a pair of stakes at Delta Downs last year. Stakes winners Prince Slew and Setemup Joe appear to be his main rivals.