12/26/2008 12:00AM

Trip could trump talent

Email

With 14 fillies and mares entered in Saturday's $60,000 Furl Sail Handicap, the running lines and other statistical information seem to stretch on forever. That's the race on paper, and out on the compact Fair Grounds grass course, such a number should create adventure-filled journeys for some horses in the 1 1/16-mile turf race.

"With that many in there, there's a good chance the best horse might not win," trainer Andy Leggio said.

There's a chance Leggio trains the best horse in the race, Candy Ball, but that would be tough to say: Run the Furl Sail with this cast of characters five times and you might get five different winners.

The Bill Mott barn has two horses for the race, and both Stormy West and Nans Joy look capable. Stormy West stayed in an opening-day off-the-turf stakes and won by 1 1/4 lengths, but she is almost certainly better on turf than dirt. Her best distance, however, might be something slightly shorter than the Furl Sail's 1 1/16 miles. Nans Joy, a listed stakes winner overseas, finished fifth while making her U.S. debut in the Sept. 13 Noble Damsel at Belmont, but might not have shown her best. Post 12 for the Furl Sail, however, does Nan's Joy no favors.

Still, 12 is slightly better than 13, and that is Shytoe Lafeet's draw. A closing third in this race last year, Shytoe Lafeet registered a professional 2 1/2-length win in a Dec. 4 allowance prep for this race. The second-place horse that day, You Dancing Devil, was running late after being too far behind and also has at least a small shot on Saturday.

Leggio didn't expect to have Candy Ball for this race. Her owner, Tom and Sue Ball's Rancha Fresa Inc., entered Candy Ball in Keeneland's November auction as a broodmare prospect, but she failed to meet her reserve and was back in training about three weeks after she left Leggio's barn.

"That time did her some good, and I've worked her five-eighths every week since she got down here," Leggio said. "She's training forwardly, training as well as she ever has."

Candy Ball's 6-year-old season already ranks as her best, and her three 2008 wins include two stakes - one on turf, one off - at the last Fair Grounds meet. Candy Ball hasn't started since Sept. 20, when her form underwent a late-summer decline, but that might not be a bad thing.

"Last time we gave her a break, she had about four months off and she won her first race back," Leggio said.

That's not a lot to hang one's hat on, but it's something.