10/22/2002 11:00PM

BC Countdown -Turf: Soft turf? 'Anticipation' doesn't mind


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - For a day that started out on a worrisome note, Wednesday quickly turned positive for trainer Jonathan Sheppard.

When he arrived at Saratoga's turf training track to work With Anticipation for Saturday's Breeders' Cup Turf at Arlington Park, he was greeted with a blanket of snow.

"It was mixed with rain and quite cold," he said.

But after With Anticipation took to the soft turf course, Sheppard was elated with the 7-year-old gray gelding's final major preparation for Saturday's race. Later, when post positions were announced, With Anticipation drew post seven in an eight-horse field.

"That's excellent," said Sheppard, who wanted to avoid the rail.

At Saratoga, With Anticipation worked six furlongs in company with a stablemate and showed Sheppard a liking for a soft turf, a point that had previously been a concern. With Anticipation was timed in 1:14.40.

"They were really cutting it up and it was soft, but he worked extremely well," Sheppard said. "The lead horse went out in front. Instead of being three or four lengths behind like I wanted, the gray horse was 10 behind. I wanted to get a good work into him and he collared the other horse at the eighth pole and finished in front. I thought it was an excellent work."

The Arlington Park turf course was firm on Wednesday, but there was a chance of rain late in the week. Following Wednesday's work, Sheppard was more confident that With Anticipation will be able to handle Saturday's condition if rain does occur.

With only eight entrants, the $2.42 million Turf is guaranteed to have its smallest field in history. There were nine starters at Santa Anita in 1986. High Chaparral, the winner of the English and Irish derbies, will be favored.

In addition to With Anticipation, Perfect Soul worked at Woodbine and Falcon Flight worked at Santa Anita in their respective final serious preps.

Perfect Soul worked five furlongs on a soft turf in 1:02.20 and galloped out six furlongs in 1:15.90. The workout was over the outer half of the turf course with the temporary cones placed far off the inner rail.

"I don't think the time was very relevant, considering where the dogs are," trainer Roger Attfield said, referring to the cones. "It was a nice work; just the way he was moving. He was happy. The going was pretty good where we were."

The 4-year-old Perfect Soul has yet to win a stakes. Fourth in the Canadian International, he is likely to be the longest shot in the Turf.

At Santa Anita, Falcon Flight worked a half-mile in 49.40 on turf. The 6-year-old Falcon Flight was supplemented to the Turf for $180,000, but has experience over the course. He won the Grade 3 Arlington Handicap at Arlington Park on July 27 and was an unlucky fifth in the Arlington Million on Aug. 17. In that race, he rallied on the inside, got stuck in traffic, and was beaten only a half-length by Beat Hollow.

Trainer Don Burke II thinks that Falcon Flight have may have improved since his win at Arlington Park in July.

"The races are spaced out perfect," he said. "He's fresh. We're paying $180,000. We're going up there to win."

- additional reporting by Bill Tallon