12/24/2002 12:00AM

Witt Ante will have competition in Futurity


NEW ORLEANS - The six horses entered to race against Witt Ante in the Louisiana Futurity on Friday at Fair Grounds range from first-time starters to maiden winners. None has won a stakes, and those that have seasoning comparable to Witt Ante's aren't nearly as good as he is. Witt Ante already has a stakes win, and he just finished second here Dec. 14 in the $100,000 Champions Day Juvenile.

But before scoring the Futurity as a slam-dunk, consider that this race was a late addition to Witt Ante's schedule. Moreover, he's making an equipment change - blinkers off - and is racing against at least one developing colt, Warren's Classic, who could be in his league.

"This particular race was not on our top agenda," said Larry Robideaux, who trains Witt Ante for owner David Beard. "But he's eligible for the race, and his next start probably isn't until Jan. 19. He came out of the Champions Day race great, so I said, what the heck, let's give him another try."

Robideaux tried Witt Ante with blinkers in the Juvenile, hoping they would help him break from the gates more sharply, but Witt Ante got away as slowly as ever, breaking 12th of 14.

"He's just a slow breaker, I guess," Robideaux said. "He's a come-from-behind-type horse, and we'll just have to live with it."

Robideaux thinks Witt Ante's future is in two-turn racing, but as a sprinter, his style is to settle into stride well behind the leaders before making one big run at them. That should give Witt Ante a good look at the colt who may be his toughest rival, Warren's Classic, who rated and rallied, winning his career debut here Dec. 13.

Owned by Glen Warren and trained by Andy Leggio, Warren's Classic is a Louisiana-bred with a Kentucky pedigree: by Sky Classic and out of a mare by Woodman. Indeed, his first race made him look like a superior statebred specimen. Warren's Classic made a turn move to reach contention, took the lead in upper stretch, and drew off to win by more than eight lengths while skipping along under little pressure from jockey Corey Lanerie.

Leggio doesn't think the race took anything out of Warren's Classic, who wouldn't need much improvement to contend Friday.

Rock Slide points to Louisiana Cap

Rock Slide, game winner of the Dec. 8 Tenacious Handicap, worked a quick five furlongs here Monday and, if his training progresses well, will race again Jan. 2 in the $75,000 Louisiana Handicap.

Trainer Neil Howard said he was pleased with the way Rock Slide had bounced back from the Tenacious, which the colt won by a nose over Discreet Hero for his first stakes win. Rock Slide's career has been interrupted several times by layoffs, and his talent never has fully developed because of physical setbacks. Howard hopes Rock Slide will stay healthy and improve enough to point for the New Orleans Handicap.

Rock Slide's five-furlong breeze Monday was timed in 1:00.80, second fastest of 27 works at the distance.

For now, Rock Slide won't race against his younger full brother, Mineshaft, whose strong second-level allowance win here Friday probably landed him a starting slot in the Jan. 19 Diplomat Way Handicap, Howard said. Making only his second start in this country and first around two turns, Mineshaft won by 3 1/2 lengths while running one mile and 40 yards in 1:38.97, less than a half-second off the track record.

Prince Malagra in trouble at school

Because of Christmas, Fair Grounds schooling races were moved to Monday this week, but only 12 horses ran in two heats. In fact, the most interesting moment of the morning came in the second race, when a 2-year-old colt named Prince Malagra did everything but lay down on the racetrack to avoid entering the starting gate. Prince Malagra never acted maliciously, but balked at every attempt to urge or cajole him into the gate. With his front feet planted into the ground, he finally was pushed, pulled, and prodded into his stall by a group of five straining men.

He then was beaten 18 lengths.

The second-race winner, Love That Saint, will turn 5 in a week, but he ran a quick five furlongs (1:01.20) and galloped out well. Trained by Norman Miller, Love That Saint bears watching in his debut.