01/15/2005 1:00AM

Triple X., 'Tempered' return for rematch


NEW ORLEANS - Tempered Steel and Triple X., second and third behind Gallo Del Bar on Dec. 24 at Fair Grounds, hook up again in Monday's feature race, a $40,000 optional claiming race at 1 1/8 miles on the grass.

A gray colt by Dixieland Band trained by Michael Smithwick Jr., Triple X. made a middle move in the race, hit the front, and hung. He has demonstrated considerable talent on the grass, with two wins and two thirds in five starts, but doesn't seem to have learned how to relax.

Tempered Steel has a late-running style perfectly suited to the Fair Grounds, and leading jockey Robby Albarado is back on him for another try.

The field of nine also features three horses who won their last starts at Fair Grounds.

Taconic was claimed Jan. 2 by trainer Gary Palmisano out of his third consecutive victory for $35,000. A 5-year-old Kingmambo gelding, Taconic has come into his own and loves the Fair Grounds course, where he is 2 for 3.

Distorted Power got up in a $25,000 claimer at 1 1/16 miles to win by a nose in his last start. Jockey Gerard Melancon, who used strong handling on Distorted Power that day, is back to ride him again. An 8-year-old Broad Brush gelding, Distorted Power is the field's biggest winner, bankrolling $219,325 with a 10-3-5 record in 37 starts.

Indian Prospector overcame the turf course bias Jan. 2, when he tracked a slow pace and won easily. James Graham is back to ride Indian Prospector, but the horses who finished behind him last out, Pat the Winner and Listen Indy, did not flatter his form when they ran back. Pat the Winner finished eighth Saturday, and Listen Indy finished third, beaten 3 3/4 lengths Friday.

Atticus Kristy shipped in from Pimlico and has been working well in the mornings for trainer Merrill Scherer. A 4-year-old Atticus gelding, Atticus Kristy hasn't run since October but has been sharp after a layoff in the past and has a 3-1-2 record in seven turf starts.

Speed of Light, a 7-year-old Irish-bred by Spectrum, has been running with poor luck against much better company. The last time he ran for a $40,000 tag was the last race he won, in October 2003 at Belmont Park.

Wave the Sword, a 7-year-old, enjoyed some success in 2002 at Fair Grounds, where he won his maiden and an allowance race. He was winless in five 2003 starts and ran only once last year, in the same race as Tempered Steel and Triple X.