11/16/2008 1:00AM

Whole field in this one prepping for stakes


NEW ORLEANS – It’s likely that the connections of all seven horses entered in the featured eighth race on Sunday at Fair Grounds are prepping their horse for a start next month on the Louisiana Champions Day program. And with a $100,000 stakes on the horizon, who in their right mind would be emptying the tank in a $52,000 allowance race?

The prep-for-a-stakes situation makes things confusing enough, but also keep in mind that all seven fillies and mares in the six-furlong sprint are starting after layoffs of varying lengths. None, in fact, has run as recently even as September.

Analysis, though, has to pass through Superior Storm, a 3-year-old tackling older horses for the first time but already the most accomplished horse in the race. Superior Storm won the Champions Day Lassie here last season, and only got better from there. Victorious in 8 of her 12 starts, Superior Storm comes into Sunday on a four-race winning streak, and has earned nearly a quarter-million dollars in 2008.

Superior Storm, however, made her two most recent starts at route distances, and she shows but one published workout for Sunday’s race. If the filly lacks sharpness, post 1 could present an obstacle.

Right next to Superior Storm is another 3-year-old, Sax Appeal, who hasn’t raced since she won the Happy Ticket Stakes here in February.

“We just gave her some time off with the goal of getting her ready for the Fair Grounds meet,” trainer Steve Asmussen said. “She’s never been a great work horse, and that’s why I thought it was important to get a race in her before Champions Day.”

Calmed, a 5-year-old mare, finished second in the Champions Day Ladies Sprint last season, and has designs on that race again. But that does not mean that Calmed is not ready to win her Champions Day prep, according to trainer Connie Tassistro.

“We’re looking to get a prep race in her, but I wouldn’t have her in there if I didn’t think she was ready,” said Tassistro on Friday morning.

Tassistro doesn’t have national name recognition, but he is a bit of a legend in Louisiana circles. On Friday, Calmed certainly looked fit enough to win, and she may be the horse most well-meant in a race that’s only a means to an end.