07/23/2004 11:00PM

Useful prep for Fire Slam

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David Carroll could not have written a better script himself.

Fire Slam, the star 3-year-old sprinter that Carroll trains for Stan Fulton, was a winner Saturday in the Don Bernhardt Stakes at Ellis Park without being fully extended. With jockey Pat Day riding with complete confidence, Fire Slam prevailed by the most measured of heads in the $97,500 Bernhardt over a gritty Unbridled America.

The race against older horses figures as an ideal prep for Fire Slam, a Grand Slam colt who will run next against his own age division in the Grade 1 King's Bishop Stakes on Aug. 28 at Saratoga.

"I'm glad to get this race behind us," said Carroll. "Pat did what he had to do. The colt should really improve off this."

Fire Slam returned $3.80 as second choice in a field that was reduced to just four by the scratches of Scrimshaw and Founding Chairman. The 7-10 favorite and expected front-runner, Cat Genius, broke in the air, immediately altering the complexion of the race. Craig Perret had Cat Genius in front soon enough, but the poor start eventually took its toll, as Fire Slam and Unbridled America easily went past leaving the quarter pole. That pair raced as a team to the wire, with Day hand-riding his mount to the narrow win.

Cat Genius finished 5 1/4 lengths behind in third. Big Talkin Man ran last.

The victory followed the Matt Winn and Riva Ridge as the third in a row for Fire Slam, who finished 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:16.91 over a fast track.