12/09/2009 1:00AM

Aggie Engineer's turf experiment


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Seven months after he was sidelined by injury, Aggie Engineer is back in an allowance race on turf at Hollywood Park on Friday, a new surface that could dictate how trainer Paddy Gallagher campaigns the gelding in 2010.

Aggie Engineer has won 3 of 7 starts racing on synthetic tracks. He won a maiden race in early 2008, and a first-level allowance and a high-priced optional claimer earlier this year. Friday's race will be Aggie Engineer's first start since a sixth-place finish in the Grade 2 Mervyn LeRoy Handicap here in May.

Gallagher cites two recent turf workouts - six furlongs in 1:14.20 and a half-mile in 48.60 seconds - and the confidence of jockey Alex Solis as reasons to be pleased with Aggie Engineer's progress.

"This is somewhere to try him coming back," Gallagher said. "It's his first race for a while and his last two works have been good. Alex has been happy with him."

Owned by breeders Ward and Roberta Williford, Aggie Engineer should have no trouble with Friday's distance of 1 1/16 miles. He led throughout a second-level optional $62,500 claimer over a mile at Santa Anita on April 3. In the Mervyn LeRoy over 1 1/16 miles, Aggie Engineer was near the front to early stretch and was beaten 10 1/4 lengths by Ball Four.

"He had a shoulder that was bothering him," Gallagher said.

There are only five runners in Friday's first race, a third-level allowance also open to nonwinners of a race this year. The turf will be a test for two other top contenders - Cigar Man and Spurrier.

Cigar Man was second in the San Quentin Stakes over 1 1/16 miles at Golden Gate Fields on Nov. 27. Friday's race will be Cigar Man's first start on turf since a fifth-place finish in the Needles Stakes at Calder in September 2008. Cigar Man is winless in two starts on turf in his 22-race career.

Trainer Vladimir Cerin nominated Cigar Man for Saturday's Native Diver Handicap, but says the 4-year-old gelding will run on Friday.

"It would be better if there was speed in the race," Cerin said. "It should be an easier spot."

Spurrier won an allowance race over 1 1/16 miles here on Nov. 27, and makes his turf debut on Friday.

Knockout Artist, who won a $50,000 claimer on turf on Nov. 21, and Bleu Intense, unraced in 15 months, are also entered.