12/28/2007 1:00AM

Total's choice: Run well or retire

EmailNEW ORLEANS - These next few races will determine whether Total is a career gal or a young mother. Coming back off a six-month layoff, she will be tested in Sunday's feature race, a six-furlong optional $50,000 claimer.

Total, 3, hasn't raced since May, but her problems weren't physical, according to trainer Al Stall.

"She got burned out going around two turns," said Stall. "The problems were mental. We couldn't find anything wrong with her."

Total won three sprints in a row last winter and then finished second in February in the Grade 3 Silverbulletday at Fair Grounds. After that she met stronger competition in the Grade 2 Fair Grounds Oaks, finishing seventh, and fell to 10th in the Grade 3 La Troienne at Keeneland May 5 before heading for the pastures at Claiborne Farm, which along with Adele Dilschneider owns the filly.

She returned to training in October and has six weeks of workouts at the Fair Grounds, including a bullet work at four furlongs. If she has overcome her mental issues, she should be ready to fire.

"Hopefully, we use this allowance race to get her ready for bigger and better things," said Stall. "If it doesn't work out, she'll go to be a momma in a couple of months."

Also entered is Sweet Ambition, making her second start for the red-hot Steve Asmussen barn. She finished third last time out, in a fourth-level optional $75,000 claimer.

"She ran a decent race last time out," said Asmussen. "We were hoping to get her back in on the turf, but the race didn't go. Hopefully, she'll do her thing."

Casino Transaction comes back after tiring on the turf here last time out. Before that she won an optional-claiming sprint on the Meadowlands main track, so if her problems were with the surface last time, she could be ready at a good price.

Good ones run 1-2 in allowance

Mad Flatter and Unbridled Vicar looked like Louisiana Derby-type horses on Thursday, finishing one-two in a 1 1/16-mile allowance race that was taken off the turf and run on the main track.

Mad Flatter lived up to his 6-5 odds, wiring the field in 1:45.87 to win by a half-length. Mad Flatter set a slow pace, turned back Knotty Knotty at the turn and Boss Lafitte in midstretch, then hung on when Unbridled Vicar made his run at him. Mad Flatter was not urged until the final furlong

Unbridled Vicar rallied from ninth place, splitting foes around the turn.

"The horse that won is a nice horse, and I think we have a nice horse," said Unbridled Vicar's trainer, Greg Geier. "He's still a little green. He switched back and forth on his lead, but he'll learn."

Mad Flatter's trainer, Jeff Thornbury, said: "I would have liked to have been able to cover him up a little bit, get behind a few horses, but the pace wasn't there."

Thornbury has Mad Flatter pointed toward the Lecomte on Jan. 12, leaving the colt only 16 days to rest and recharge.

Geier said Unbridled Vicar will take a pass on the Lecomte and probably run next in an allowance race or the Feb. 9 Risen Star as a prep toward the March 8 Louisiana Derby, where the two might meet again.

Curlin works, fans watch

Trainer Steve Asmussen has continued to jog Curlin in the morning, much to the delight of early-morning fans who have been coming to see him. Curlin has been jogging clockwise around the track.

Until there is a decision on whether Curlin will run this year or be retired to stud, Asmussen intends to schedule a series of two-mile gallops.

"The idea is have him get steadily faster, then see where he's at," said Asmussen.

His next gallop was scheduled for Monday.