03/02/2006 12:00AM

Bengal Lore to run on dirt or turf


ARCADIA, Calif. - There was a slight chance of rain Thursday night in this area, and it could have a major impact on the Grade 3, $100,000 Baldwin Stakes on Saturday at Santa Anita.

The Baldwin, for 3-year-olds, is scheduled for 6 1/2 furlongs on the hillside turf course, which requires runners to cross the main track at the top of the stretch. If there's still significant moisture in the main track, the race would be moved from the turf course and that would make Da Stoops a heavy favorite. If the rain is minimal, and the track dry, the race will stay on the turf.

"I'm running either way," Ted H. West, who sends out Bengal Lore, said Thursday morning at Santa Anita. "What's Da Stoops doing?"

Told - who has recorded runaway victories this meet in the California Breeders' Champion Stakes and Sunshine Millions Dash - would run only if the race moves to the dirt, West replied, "Then I hope it stays on the grass."

So does Bobby Frankel. He entered both and To Sender, but said To Sender would be scratched in favor of the Pasadena Stakes on March 18. Set Alight could be the favorite if the race is on turf. He won 3 of his 6 starts last year in France, including a Group 3 stakes race at Saint-Cloud, and ran well fresh in his debut. He has not raced since unsuccessfully trying the dirt in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile.

"She showed speed in the Breeders' Cup and got rank," Frankel said Thursday morning from his barn at Hollywood Park. "There's a lot of speed in this race. He should have something to settle off of."

will be the one to catch. When he makes the lead, he is terrific. He comes off a front-running victory against a first-level allowance field with Kent Desormeaux. But when Bengal Lore gets challenged early, he frequently chucks it.

"My horse needs the lead," West said. "He's never been on the turf, but he's bred for it, and when he worked on it the other day, Kent said he took to it like a duck to water. He's a funny horse. He surprised me with how well he ran last time, but the time before" - a seventh-place finish in the San Miguel Stakes - "he surprised me with how poorly he ran."