09/23/2004 12:00AM

Blanc finds turf expertise in demand


Brice Blanc admits that his knowledge of turf courses can be overrated.

"I'm no gardener," he said with a grin.

Blanc has earned a national reputation as an outstanding grass rider, and he often is sought out for his services - and even his opinions - when live racing moves each September to Kentucky Downs, the all-turf course in Franklin, Ky.

Blanc, 31, began his riding career in his native France, where racecourses are somewhat similar to the one at Kentucky Downs - undulating and asymmetrical, with long straightaways and turns both sweeping and tight.

Blanc, whose mounts have earned more than $30 million since he began riding in the United States in 1995, said Kentucky Downs has some drawbacks but that competing there is an overall positive experience.

"If they did a few more things to it, it might be better," he said. "There is a big clover patch on the far turn. The grass is probably a little too long."

Blanc said that "the ground is very chewed up at the bottom of the hill" that comes at about the five-furlong mark, "and the inside on the turn is no good because it is so steeply banked and all the water drains down there. That is why you see so many horses coming wide into the stretch.

"But it is a nice place. I enjoy riding there, and so do the other jockeys. It's fun and it's different, and it makes you use your head. It's refreshing."

Blanc has mounts in two of the Kentucky Cup events Saturday: Banned in Boston in the Mile and Sabiango in the Turf.

Longest of shots in Turf Dash

There seems a better chance that a massive earthquake will rock Kentucky Downs on Saturday than Bano's Adil has of winning the Kentucky Cup Turf Dash.

Bano's Adil is a homebred maiden who is owned and trained by Dr. Naseem Rauf, a heart surgeon whose record in racing is so woeful that Kentucky oddsmaker Mike Battaglia unfailingly makes his horses 99-1 on the morning line.

According to Daily Racing Form statistics, a Rauf horse has not won a race since the stable went 2 for 76 in 1990. Since then, the stable is 0 for 256.

Bano's Adil typifies why Rauf has fared so poorly. In eight starts, the colt has never finished better than sixth, beaten 11 1/4 lengths, and yet Rauf chose to enter him against a very accomplished group of stakes horses in the Turf Dash.

Rauf's overall record as a trainer since he became active 20 years ago is 8 for 584.

Don't write Gorylla off, says McPeek

With just one U.S. start, Gorylla is the hardest to gauge among the eight horses in the Kentucky Cup Turf. And from that one race, which resulted in an eighth-place finish in the 1 1/8-mile Tri-State at Ellis Park, it would appear the 7-year-old Brazilian-bred is overmatched by the likes of Rochester, Sabiango, and others.

Not so fast, said trainer Ken McPeek.

"He's a very good horse in his own right," said McPeek, who has another Brazilian-bred, Art Variety, in the same race. "That first race, we just wanted to get a good run into him. We knew it'd be too short for him. He should be a lot more competitive going the mile and a half."

Bejarano at it again

Rafael Bejarano, the nation's leading rider in victories and the man who set a Kentucky Downs record by riding six winners Tuesday, was back at it again Wednesday night at Turfway, winning with four of seven mounts, including a sweep of the last three races.

Among Bejarano's winners was First Lady, an Argentine-bred who won the ninth-race feature for trainer Bobby Barnett. Through Wednesday, Bejarano had ridden 368 winners this year.

* This is the busiest time of year for many people in racing in Kentucky, from horsemen and officials to mutuel-sellers and fans. From Sept. 15 through Oct. 3, there will have been 19 straight days of live racing: 15 at Turfway and six at Kentucky Downs, including two Saturdays of melded racing. No wonder some people have big red rings around Monday, Oct. 4, on their calendars.