02/01/2010 1:00AM

Walking the Beach tries to make amends

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NEW ORLEANS - Walking the Beach was really supposed to have raced last week, in the Lecomte, on the road to the Louisiana Derby. Bought for $325,000 at Fasig-Tipton's sale last February, Walking the Beach scored an impressive win at first asking, and his connections were dreaming big.

Those dreams went off the rails when the 3-year-old colt Walking the Beach failed to fire in a first-level optional claimer nearly a month ago, for reasons that are still unclear to his barn.

With no explanation for the dud, Walking the Beach returns to the same level and distance in Monday's feature race at Fair Grounds, a first-level optional $50,000 claimer for 3-year-olds going a mile and 40 yards.

In his first race, a six-furlong maiden special weight on Nov. 26 at Churchill, Walking the Beach went off as the favorite, and ran to expectations, defeating a solid field by 1 1/2 lengths. Most impressively to his connections, he did it while relaxing, closing from more than six lengths off the pace.

"His first race was impressive, and he beat some nice horses," said Peaches Geier, assistant to trainer Bret Calhoun. "He relaxed good."

Off that effort, he trained well going into his race on Jan. 3, going a mile and 40 yards over the Fair grounds main track. Walking the Beach's connections were expecting something much different than a ninth-place finish.

"We were completely puzzled. No idea what happened," said Geier. "The only thing I can figure, maybe he got lost or confused going long, with the two turns."

With the idea of getting Walking the Beach ready for the two turns, his training was altered. He was sent for a two-minute lick, going a mile. He was caught by the clockers going seven-eighths in 1:28.60, and it is enough to have Geier looking for a better performance this time out.

"He's going into this race great," said Geier. "We're hoping for plenty better."

While the race isn't as tough as the Lecomte, it has drawn several other promising 3-year-olds, including Hotep, who finished well ahead of him last time out. Unlike Walking the Beach, Hotep has won going two turns. He defeated maidens at Woodbine going a mile and 70 yards.

The other logical contender is the speedy Down With Dixie, who took six tries to win his first race, but finally broke through in his last effort, winning by 2 1/4 lengths at this distance locally.