10/19/2005 11:00PM

BC Turf: Soft turf would help Gun Salute

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A shot at the richest turf race in the United States on a course that may be less than firm led owner-breeder Brant Laue and trainer Bill Mott to pre-enter Gun Salute for the $2 million Breeders' Cup Turf at Belmont Park on Oct. 29.

Now, all Gun Salute has to do is try a new distance of 1 1/2 miles and defeat many of the world's best turf horses.

Gun Salute, 3, is in the midst of an outstanding year, having won his last three starts - the Grade 2 American Derby and the Grade 1 Secretariat Stakes at Arlington Park during the summer and the Grade 3 Hawthorne Derby at Hawthorne on Oct. 15.

The win in the Secretariat emphasized to Mott that Gun Salute was a top-class horse.

Gun Salute won the Secretariat, over 1 1/4 miles on turf, by 1 3/4 lengths over English Channel, who returned to finish a game second to the Mott-trained Shakespeare in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic at Belmont Park on Oct. 1.

Both English Channel and Shakespeare are pre-entered in the BC Turf.

"We beat English Channel in the Secretariat. He came back and ran well last time," Mott said. "If the ground would come up soft, I think our horse will like it. It's possible with Hurricane Wilma sitting out there."

There is a chance of rain at Belmont in coming days, though the long-range forecast calls for dry weather for race week.

Gun Salute is one of three 3-year-olds among the 15 pre-entered horses for the BC Turf. The others are English Channel and Motivator, winner of the English Derby in June. Azamour, the probable favorite, is a 4-year-old who has won two Group 1 stakes this year.

Mott had considered keeping Gun Salute in the 3-year-old division and pointing for the Hollywood Derby in late November, but the BC Turf is too tempting, he said.

"It seems like wants to go on and may see the soft turf," Mott said. "His Secretariat was fairly impressive."

Mott was not as thrilled with Gun Salute's win in the Hawthorne Derby over 1 1/8 miles on turf. Gun Salute was third of five early, reached the front in midstretch, and won by a neck. Mott called the performance, "not that good, but it was the kind of race that he could improve off."