12/12/2001 1:00AM

Turf or dirt, Aloha Bold the choice

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NEW ORLEANS - Things are starting to pick up at Fair Grounds. There was some good maiden action here Monday, and Thursday's card has a very solid center in the form of a third-level, optional claiming sprint, and a two-turn allowance race for 2-year-olds.

The optional claimer, race nine, is carded for about 5 1/2 furlongs on turf, but rain is forecast here for Wednesday and Thursday, and a switch to the main track would come as no surprise. That might be appreciated by the connections of the six entrants: between them, they have made four starts on grass.

Turf or dirt, all eyes will be upon Aloha Bold, a 3-year-old colt who began his career with three wins, and has not yet been seriously challenged. Aloha Bold won a Keeneland maiden race by more than five lengths, a Keeneland allowance race by more than two lengths, and on Nov. 24 toyed with a second-level allowance field here, winning by two while being eased under the wire.

Aloha Bold, who is owned by Stewart Madison and trained by Tom Amoss, overcame serious physical problems just to make the races. Amoss called Aloha Bold his most promising 2-year-old of 2000, but before the colt could make a start, he was injured and taken out of training. Later, Aloha Bold colicked so severely that surgery was required to remove part of his intestine.

Most racehorses are not the same after such a traumatic event, but not Aloha Bold, who is a bruiser of a horse. He does not have a strong turf pedigree, but he does have speed, which has been effective in turf sprints at this meet.

Aloha Bold will hook up early with the Louie Roussel-trained Cat Tracks, who has won twice on this turf course. A taxing speed duel and the race could fall into the lap of the comebacking Fistfite, Bet on Joe, or recent claim Classy E. T.

* The eighth race, a first-level route allowance, may reveal a contender for the major 3-year-old stakes to be run here in the spring. It includes Churchill allowance winners Easyfromthegitgo and Robe, who trainer Frank Brothers has described as his most promising 2-year-old prospect. Robe, a Claiborne Farm homebred by Pulpit, led all the way winning a two-turn maiden race Nov. 7 at Churchill. The route experience could lend him an edge over the Steve Asmussen-trained Easyfromthegitgo. Both horses are early nominees to the Louisiana Derby.

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