01/08/2010 12:00AM

Caspian a multi-surface threat


NEW ORLEANS - While the rest of New Orleans obsesses about the cold weather, and local trainers speculate about the probability of turf racing on Sunday, trainer Mike Stidham can go about his business.

With his other base in Chicago, Stidham is well accustomed to the cold. With Caspian entered in a turf race on Sunday, Stidham can be confident, as Caspian is equally comfortable on turf or dirt.

Caspian is entered in Sunday's feature, a second-level allowance with a claiming option of $40,000 at about 5 1/2 furlongs on the grass.

Caspian's last race, an allowance sprint scheduled for the Fair Grounds turf on Dec. 11, was moved to the main track. Although all of Caspian's eight races at that point had come over turf or polytrack, Stidham decided to keep him in the race.

"Last time we decided to try him, because he had been working well on the dirt," said Stidham.

The result was Caspian's most impressive race to date. He stalked the pace before taking over in midstretch and coming home 1 1/2 lengths in front.

"He's one of those rare horses that seems to handle every surface - turf, synthetic, and now dirt," said Stidham. "Right now, that flexibility is a good thing to have."

That flexibility may be called upon, as the frigid conditions and moisture in the course from earlier rains may move the races off the turf. For many of the others entered, turf is clearly the preferred surface.

For 9-year-old Atticus Kristy, turf has been his lifeblood, with 13 of his 14 wins coming on the grass. Entered for the $40,000 claiming price, Atticus Kristy has been off for two months but has been in steady training over the Fair Grounds main track.

While Atticus Kristy is nearly four years removed from his win in the Grade 3 Shakertown, he was still in good enough form in 2009 to finish in the money in 8 of 10 races, and win the $60,000 My Frenchman at Monmouth.

Also entered is The Darp, who defeated Caspian two races ago over the Fair Grounds turf. In that Nov. 15 turf sprint, The Darp came from 11 lengths back to get up by a neck.

In his last race, on Dec. 17, The Darp failed to fire after the race was moved off the turf. He raced evenly and finished more than 10 lengths back.