04/28/2010 11:00PM

American Turf pace to suit Setsuko


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - If a swift pace may be the undoing of front-runners in the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, the same could happen to 3-year-old grass horses in the Grade 2, $175,000 American Turf Stakes on Friday.

Eleven horses were entered in the American Turf, a 1 1/16-mile race, but Make Music for Me has bigger fish to fry, having gotten into the Kentucky Derby field. At least three of the remaining 10, however, including morning-line favorite Lost Aptitude, figure to have designs on the lead, and the American Turf pace could turn swift.

That would aid Setsuko, one of two horses excluded from the Derby when entries were taken Wednesday. Setsuko, a strapping son of Pleasantly Perfect, has improved steadily through 2010, and enters the American Turf after a career-best performance, rallying behind slow splits for second in the Santa Anita Derby. Setsuko has made seven of his eight starts on synthetic surfaces but finished a fast-closing second in a Jan. 27 allowance race, his only previous turf try.

"He was caught behind a pace there that really slowed down and then tried to catch them, and it's a little difficult to do that," trainer Dick Mandella said.

Rain fell five days in a row here, and even without any more precipitation, the Churchill turf will be less than firm, but Mandella expressed little concern over course conditions.

"I'm sure it will be on the soft side, but I don't know that he wouldn't like it," he said.

Alfarabi was the horse who beat Setsuko on grass, but he appears to have tailed off since then. Front-running Lost Aptitude makes his first start since failing to take to dirt in the Feb. 20 Fountain of Youth, but easily won his two starts over the local grass last year. Dale Romans trains Lost Aptitude and also has late-running Guys Reward in the American Turf. Pace factor Strike the Tiger was nipped April 2 in the Transylvania at Keeneland, and Gleam of Hope, last seen in the March 13 Tampa Bay Derby, has a chance at long odds.

Kentucky Juvenile: Howard returns

Trainer Neil Howard was victorious the last time he started a 2-year-old for Dogwood Stable in the Kentucky Juvenile at Churchill Downs.

That was 21 years ago. Winners from that long ago, even stakes winners, are usually forgettable - not this one. The winner was Summer Squall, who would go on to run second to Unbridled in the 1990 Kentucky Derby before beating Unbridled in the Preakness.

Howard is back Friday in the Grade 3, $100,000 Kentucky Juvenile with another Dogwood-owned 2-year-old, Lou Brissie, who, like Summer Squall, won a 4 1/2-furlong race at Keeneland in his debut.

Howard said Lou Brissie, a son of Limestone, is the first 2-year-old he has trained for Dogwood since Summer Squall.

Unlike Summer Squall, Lou Brissie does not appear to be the favorite to win the Kentucky Juvenile. He is co-fourth choice on the morning line at 5-1 behind a trio of fillies: dominant maiden winners Nina Fever (5-2), Twelve Pack Shelly (3-1) and Final Mesa (7-2).

Yet Lou Brissie has done something the fillies have not. He won from off the pace in his April 15 debut at Keeneland, closing from six lengths back.

Howard credits trainer Ron Stevens for the professionalism Lou Brissie displayed in his three-quarter-length maiden victory. Stevens prepped him in Aiken, S.C., this winter and spring.

"I call it Stevens Junior High," Howard said.

John Velazquez rides.

Favorably drawn is Maryland invader Twelve Pack Shelly, a Deputy Storm filly who landed in post 9 in the five-furlong Kentucky Juvenile, outside the other speed. She won her only start by 10 3/4 lengths April 8 at Laurel Park, racing 4 1/2 furlongs in a track record time of 50.83 seconds and earning a 95 Beyer Speed Figure. Harry Vega has the mount for trainer John Salzman Jr.

- Byron King

Turf Sprint: Target on Chamberlain Bridge

Chamberlain Bridge is a cranky old man. But when he's feeling it, he can run, as evidenced by a record of 12 wins in 25 starts. Now 6, Chamberlain Bridge is the defending champ in the Grade 3, $100,000 Churchill Downs Turf Sprint, to be run for the 16th time here Friday, and he has won all three of his races over this course. But in his last start, Chamberlain Bridge finished fourth of six in the Shakertown Stakes at Keeneland, a performance his trainer, Bret Calhoun, candidly called "very disappointing."

"I expected much more out of him," Calhoun said at Churchill Downs on Wednesday morning. "I didn't expect there to be quite that much speed in the race. They tightened it up on him inside, and he didn't like it. He's kind of a temperamental horse. He threw his head up in the lane. It's just a throw-out race. He didn't like his position."

Chamberlain Bridge, who starts from post 3 on Friday, will have to use his tactical speed to break free, or at least let some other horses clear him and then try to work his way outside in the 11-horse field. That will all have to happen in a hurry, because the five-furlong Turf Sprint takes well under a minute, and there will be plenty of horses ready to test Chamberlain Bridge at every point, including Silver Timber, the Shakertown winner, and Starfish Bay, a filly who comes off a swift turf sprint win at Gulfstream Park.

Silver Timber should be favored, as he was in the Shakertown. He has won 4 of 6 starts since being claimed one year ago by trainer Chad Brown and has the stalk-and-pounce style that seems ideally suited to turf sprints. This will be his first try Churchill's grass course.

Starfish Bay is making her first start against males, but she did beat her Todd Pletcher-trained stablemate West Ocean at Gulfstream. West Ocean, a filly, has come back to win her next two starts.

- Jay Privman