04/30/2002 11:00PM

Aegon Turf: The usual suspects


The world of male turf sprinters has changed little in the last year.

The first three finishers of the 2001 Aegon Turf Sprint - Morluc, Testify, and Texas Glitter - return in Friday's $100,000 race over five furlongs. This year's field has the added attraction of Orientate, the winner of the Grade 2 Commonwealth Breeders' Cup Stakes in the mud at Keeneland on April 14.

The Grade 3 Aegon Turf Sprint drew 12, allowing little margin for error. If a runner misses the break, races wide or in traffic, victory will be nearly impossible.

Expect a furious pace. Knave, Mighty Beau, Orientate, and Texas Glitter can lead. Freeway Ticket, Gone Fishin, Grangeville, and Morluc will stalk, while Golden Dragon, Red Lightning, Testify, and Twilight Road will attempt late rallies.

Texas Glitter was favored in this race last year and finished third. He won the five-furlong Yankee Affair Stakes at Gulfstream Park in course record time of 55.68 seconds on April 13 by leading throughout. He can also win from off the pace.

"On the turf, he's as consistent as any horse, but you can't afford to make a mistake," trainer Todd Pletcher said. "He's such a good gate horse that sometimes the ground doesn't support him."

None of the entrants are as accomplished as Morluc, who has won 10 of 34 starts and $922,334. A 6-year-old, Morluc won the Shakertown Stakes at Keeneland over 5 1/2 furlongs on April 13, outfinishing Mighty Beau and Grangeville in a three-horse photo. The race provided more suspense than trainer Randy Morse would have preferred.

"In his last few races, he'll run to that lead horse and hang," Morse said. "He had a lot more horse than it appeared. If he can make a clear lead, he'll run better. He loves this turf course."