11/01/2006 1:00AM

Atticus Kristy back on favorite course

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Atticus Kristy barely made it out of a gallop in his last race, but trainer Merrill Scherer is not discouraged. By returning to his favorite surface, the turf course at Churchill Downs, Atticus Kristy is eligible to rebound in a big way Friday, when he is part of an exceptionally deep field of turf-sprint specialists in the $250,000 Cherokee Run Stakes.

Javier Castellano rode Atticus Kristy when he finished sixth in his last start, the Oct. 22 Nearctic at Woodbine, and Castellano rides him again on Friday.

"It was raining, and the course was soft as heck," said Scherer, who trains the 5-year-old gelding for Centaur Farms and Dan Lynch. "Castellano got off and said, 'You can run him tomorrow, he didn't do a thing out there,' " said Scherer. "He just couldn't handle it at all."

From five starts at Churchill, Atticus Kristy has 3 wins, 1 second, and 1 third, and figures to get a decent stalking position when he starts from the outside post in a field of 12.

"There ought to be two sections of speed in there," Scherer said. "There's a whole lot of early lick in there, that's for sure. Hopefully, we won't get caught too wide and we'll get a clear trip."

Four of the 12 starters in the five-furlong Cherokee Run are females: Nicole's Dream, Very Vegas, Unbridled Sidney, and Mocha Queen. All of those except Mocha Queen are very speedy, which, combined with the presence of Smart Enough and Chosen Chief, should make for an extremely rapid early pace.

If such a scenario unfolds, perhaps one of the stalkers or closers will win. Atticus Kristy is one of those, as are T.D. Vance and Around the Cape.

T.D. Vance, trained by Graham Motion, was second as the favorite in the local prep for this, the Oct. 8 Woodford at Keeneland. Garrett Gomez has the mount again on Friday.

Around the Cape, trained by Bill Mott, has run very well in each of his four turf sprints. He enters in peak form after winning his last two starts, both on the main track in New York.

The field is rounded out by Justice for Auston, Sgt. Bert, and Elusive Jazz.

The Cherokee Run, named for the winner of the 1994 Breeders' Cup Sprint at Churchill, is carded as the ninth of 12 Friday races.