07/02/2001 12:00AM

While away, Candid Glen has grown up


BOSSIER CITY, La. - Figuratively speaking, Candid Glen left Louisiana Downs a boy, and returns a man. After winning a pair of conditioned allowance races last meet, he went on to win two major turf stakes over the winter, and as a result will start as the highweight in the $100,000 Independence Breeders' Cup on Wednesday.

The 1 1/16-mile turf race is the highlight of a 10-race holiday card that starts at 1:45 p.m. Central.

Candid Glen won two of four starts at Louisiana Downs last meet. While wintering at Fair Grounds he developed into a stakes performer, taking the $154,000 Fair Grounds Breeders' Cup on Feb. 3, then returning three weeks later to win the $212,000 Connally Breeders' Cup at Sam Houston Race Park.

In his most recent start, Candid Glen finished fifth, beaten less than three lengths, in the $300,000 Dallas Turf Cup at Lone Star Park. "He ran a big race," said trainer Andrew Leggio Jr. "He took the lead at the eighth pole and he looked like a dead winner, and then I don't know what happened to him. I'm still trying to figure it out."

Leggio said one possible excuse for Candid Glen is that a plan to keep the stretch-running colt a little closer to the pace in the Dallas Turf Cup backfired. "We may have rushed him a little hard in that race, getting him up in time," said the trainer, who has given the mount to E.J. Perrodin. "The emphasis was to keep him in the race, and that may have hurt us."

The biggest threat to Candid Glen could be Nat's Big Party, third in the Dallas Turf Cup, or American Spirit, a stakes winner in his last start for trainer Tom Amoss.

Nat's Big Party ran one of the best races of his career two starts ago when he closed from far back to win a turf allowance over Dignitas Dancer, runner-up in the Dallas Turf Cup, and Candid Glen. Corey Lanerie has the mount for trainer Steve Asmussen.

American Spirit, who can be closer to the pace than both Candid Glen and Nat's Big Party, comes into the Independence on the heels of a sharp win in the $35,000 Brooks Fields Stakes at Canterbury. He will be ridden by Don Simington.

Handle up 22 percent for opener

Louisiana Downs opened last Saturday and all-source handle on the track's 10-race program was $2,460,950, a 22 percent increase over last year's $2,010,667 handle on 11 live races. Both opening days were held on a Saturday. Open day attendance was was 11,081, which was up from last year's draw of 10,916.

"It was a very gratifying opening day overall," said Louisiana Downs general manager Ray Tromba. "We didn't know what to expect with the economy a little bit soured, not just here, but around the country. We couldn't have asked for more."

* One race before the Independence, Imalotapleasure, a full brother to millionaire Littlebitlively, will attempt to clear his second condition after winning a maiden race by four lengths in his last start. John Franks owns the horse, who is trained by Shane Wilson.