01/28/2003 1:00AM

Turf allowance has the look of graded stakes


NEW ORLEANS - The names jump off the overnight list of entries for Fair Grounds's ninth race Thursday: Histoire Sainte, Quick Tip, Lady of Peace. This is an allowance race?

Add to that blockbuster trio Spectacular Dove, a winner of four straight turf races, the solid mare Soccory, and Attico, a promising 3-year-old last season who now tests older horses.

"It looks a lot more like a $100,000 stakes than an allowance race," said an incredulous Mike Stidham, Attico's trainer. "This is just like the field that ran in the last stakes."

It is indeed. Fair Grounds dropped the Sixty Sails Handicap from its stakes schedule this season, leaving only the Dec. 27 Furl Sail and the March 1 Bayou Breeders' Cup for older turf fillies. This $38,000 allowance race, at about a mile on turf, plugs the gap left by the Sixty Sails's demise, and it is designed to set these horses up for the Bayou BC.

Histoire Sainte won the Furl Sail by 1 1/2 lengths over Quick Tip, and there is a strong chance they will repeat that finish Thursday. As for Quick Tip turning the tables - unlikely.

Histoire Sainte is the reigning queen of the Fair Grounds turf. Take Histoire Sainte away from Fair Grounds and she's just another allowance horse, but here she has never lost, winning four stakes races the last three seasons. Steve Asmussen, who trains the 7-year-old Histoire Sainte for Gary Tanaka, said he believes Histoire Sainte thrives in daily training on the main track here, leaving her healthy, loose, and capable of producing her best race when it comes time to run for real on grass.

The Furl Sail did nothing to discourage his theory. Getting a great, ground-saving ride from Shane Sellers, Histoire Sainte slipped through on the inside and finished with a powerful burst to win going away.

"She's thriving as always down here," assistant trainer Scott Blasi said. "She feels as good as she ever has."

There is nothing wrong with Quick Tip, a Grade 3 winner late last year, but at one mile Thursday's race - like the Furl Sail - isn't quite far enough for her. Quick Tip has a nice steady pace, but in the Furl Sail she was out-quicked and out-kicked by Histoire Sainte. It may happen again.

Spectacular Dove, trained by Tom Amoss, will be tested for class. Spectacular Dove has won three straight allowance races and a maiden race in just five starts, but she has been fortunate to encounter some soft opposition.

With five wins from nine starts at Fair Grounds, Lady of Peace is the poor man's Histoire Sainte. She finished fifth in the Furl Sail, but was beaten less than three lengths.

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