03/10/2005 1:00AM

Tough to pick one in Marie Krantz


NEW ORLEANS - The wide-open $100,000 Marie Krantz Memorial Handicap will add plenty of spice to Saturday's all-stakes pick four at Fair Grounds. A dozen fillies and mares will compete in the 7 1/2-furlong turf race.

will meet again after finishing two-three behind Shadow Cast in the Grade 3 Bayou Breeders' Cup Classic at Fair Grounds. Sister Swank, the 120-pound highweight and expected favorite, drew badly in post 12. Trainer Steve Asmussen has named Jerry Bailey to ride her.

Bijou makes her third start after a layoff for trainer Donald Winfree and will carry 116 pounds with Lonnie Meche. May Gator, who was sixth in the Bayou, is a stakes winner, as is Spectacular Lisa, who won the Chou Croute on the dirt last year and finished second in that race this year. A 5-year-old trained by Michael Stidham, Spectacular Lisa has won on grass but appears to be better on dirt. Stidham's other entrant, Lost Bride, displayed speed and staying power in a front-running turf victory over the course last month.

My Misty Princess, a closer who should save ground early from the inside post, is a multiple stakes winner on grass.

Warning Zone is a South African-bred making her first American start. She has won Group 2 and Group 3 races in South Africa, and her one-run style is well-suited for this assignment.

Zito to watch from afar

When a trainer sends his assistant to saddle a horse in a major stakes race, it is often an indication that the horse has only an outside chance to win. That is not the case with Nick Zito, who watched Wanderin Boy win the Mineshaft Stakes via satellite and is not making the trip to saddle him in Saturday's New Orleans Handicap, for which he will send assistant trainer Tim Poole.

"I'm a little superstitious," said Zito. "I don't like to change the routine after a win. I'm sending him out there with Tim Poole; they won it last time. They don't need me there."

Stevens hoping to light up

Patrick Biancone trains a pair of top-ranked 3-year-olds, Scipion and Spanish Chestnut. Scipion, the winner of the Risen Star Stakes last month, is back for Saturday's Louisiana Derby.

Biancone said he can't determine which one is better at this time.

"We work one, we get high on him, then another day we work the other, we get high on him," Biancone said. "I have a signal with Gary Stevens. He keeps a cigar in his pocket. If the work is good, he puts it in his mouth. As long as the cigar comes out after the work, we are in good shape."

Shadow cast stays sharp

Shadow Cast, a three-time stakes winner at this meet, remained sharp with a half-mile work here in 49 seconds Thursday morning.

Shadow Cast most recently won the Bayou Breeders' Cup Handicap, but she is being freshened now for a return to action next month at Keeneland, most likely in the Jenny Wiley Handicap.

Lady Tak awaiting Churchill

The speedy Lady Tak, who won the Fair Grounds Oaks two years ago, is training this winter at Fair Grounds, but will not race again until trainer Steve Asmussen moves her to Churchill Downs. Lady Tak was going to run in January, but injured her left front hoof before a key workout.

Since then, she has worn a Z-bar shoe for protection. Asmussen said he is letting the foot heal before deciding on a race, but his main goal after a likely comeback race at Churchill is a defense of her

victory in Saratoga's Ballerina Handicap.

"She won't run at Keeneland," Asmussen said. "She likes Churchill, so we'll just wait for that."

- additional reporting by Jay Privman