12/10/2002 1:00AM

Turf the key for Larry B


Larry B was one unhappy colt late on the afternoon of Nov. 3. Where was that lovely green cushion beneath his feet? What was the stinging substance the other horses at Churchill Downs were kicking back in his face?

A true turf horse racing on dirt isn't a pretty sight to behold, and Larry B - expressing his displeasure early in the proceedings by unseating jockey Rene Douglas during warm-ups - ran ugly in the Grade 3 Iroquois Stakes, barely completing the course. It was Larry B's first start on the main track, and it was nothing like the two grass races he had already run.

Thursday at Fair Grounds, Larry B is back on grass and clearly is the horse to beat in a first-level allowance race for 2-year-olds at one mile. "He's got great big old feet on him," trainer Dave Kassen said. "He ran okay on the backstretch, but [Douglas] said it felt like he had eight legs on the turn."

A 2-year-old Patton colt owned by Larry Bielfeldt and trained by Dave Kassen, Larry B began his career in a two-turn grass race and won by a half-length over two promising colts, Scottago and Mr. Mississippi.

Kassen ran him right back in the $75,000 Manila Stakes, and Larry B could have won that, also. He made a premature and looping move while wide on the turn and took command in upper stretch, but appeared to lose his focus late in the game and was nailed at the wire by the more experienced Zydeco Affair.

Though Larry B is returning to grass, Kassen is worried. Kassen has lost some training time recently with Larry B, a strapping colt who is too big for his own good at this stage.

"He's a great big horse," Kassen said. "I don't know how he even made it to the races as a 2-year-old. I worry a bit about his fitness. I haven't missed much training, but I haven't been able to do that much with him."

Larry B's late kick perfectly suits the Fair Grounds course, but if he's not capable of delivering it there are several colts that can pick up the pieces.

Especially interesting is Canaan Land, part of a Mike Stidham-trained entry with Givetheboyacigar. Neither horse has raced on turf, but Canaan Land is a grandson of turf miler Gone West. In three dirt starts, Canaan Land has given the appearance of a horse that won't mind grass.

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