06/14/2007 12:00AM

Adagio hopes for U.S. rebound


If the opinion of European bettors is to be believed, then Adagio - the favorite in the Group 1 2000 Guineas Stakes earlier this year at Newmarket - should be favored to win the Grade 3, $750,000 Colonial Turf Cup on Saturday at Colonial Downs in Virginia.

Adagio is one of 13 horses entered in the 1o3/16-mile Turf Cup, which is restricted to 3-year-olds. He will be making his first start in the United States and is owned by Derrick Smith, Michael Tabor, and Susan Magnier, some of the same connections who won last week's Belmont Stakes with Rags to Riches.

Handicapping principles hold that a Group 1 winner in Europe will outrun similar competition on the turf in the U.S. But though Adagio was favored in the 2000 Guineas - the first leg of the English Triple Crown - he finished 12th in the race, beaten 6 1/2 lengths by Cockney Rebel. Adagio followed that effort with a fourth-place finish in the Group 2 Dante Stakes just prior to being shipped over to the U.S. It's important to note that Adagio will not be administered the anti-bleeding medication Lasix before the Turf Cup.

Adagio's less-than-stellar performances in his last two starts would be reason to bet against him were it not for a less-than-stellar field lined up against him in the Turf Cup. Only three horses in the field have won graded stakes, and none of those races was rated higher than Grade 3.

Soldier's Dancer, the winner of the Grade 3 Tropical Park Derby in his first start of 2007 and the likely second choice, is the most experienced horse in the field, with a career record of 5 wins from 12 starts. His running style seems to fit the Turf Cup's distance, especially considering several quick come-home times in his 2007 races.

The winner of the Turf Cup will be setting himself up for a possible $2 million bonus paid for by Colonial if he can also win the $1 million Virginia Derby at Colonial on July 21, the $400,000 Secretariat Stakes at Arlington Park on Aug. 11, and the $3 million Breeders' Cup Turf on Oct. 27 at Monmouth Park.

Like Adagio, Mysterious Peintre shipped to the U.S. from Europe for a try at the Turf Cup and the bonus, and he brings a solid record of 4 wins and 4 seconds from 8 starts into the race. On breeding alone - by Peintre Celebre out of the Barathea mare Mysterious Guest - the colt is worth a look at a good price.

Summer Doldrums, the main-track winner of the Whirlaway Stakes earlier this year, and Strike a Deal, the winner of three of his last four starts on turf, will also draw attention from bettors.

A longshot to be considered is the Patrick Biancone-trained Time Squared, who will be making his first start on turf following three good races on artificial surfaces.

* The undercard stakes is the Grade 3, $200,000 All Along Breeders' Cup, which drew a field of 12 fillies and mares. Masseuse, the winner of the Grade 3 Beaugay Handicap on yielding turf in her last start, is the standout and likely favorite in the 1 1/8-mile turf race. She will try to catch Humoristic, who figures to set the early pace but will be hard-pressed to stretch her speed to nine furlongs.