08/03/2005 11:00PM

Charbonnier defends turf against graded winners


SANTA ROSA, Calif. - Multiple stakes winners A to the Z and Adreamisborn are the marquee horses in Saturday's $100,000 Joseph T. Grace Handicap at the Sonoma County Fair, but they will have to be sharp to defeat the hometown hero, Charbonnier. The Grace, to be run at 1 1/16 miles over the new turf course at Santa Rosa, will be featured on TVG's national coverage.

Also Saturday, the undefeated Lost in the Fog will work before the sixth race. He is expected to run next in the Grade 1 King's Bishop at Saratoga on Travers Day, Aug. 27. Russell Baze will be aboard for the work, expected to be at five furlongs.

A to the Z, winner on a disqualification of the Grade 2 Mervin Muniz Handicap at the Fair Grounds in March, had a string of five straight triple-digit Beyer races snapped in the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic at Churchill Downs on May 7, his last start. He broke in the air, raced wide, and made a strong midrace move, then he flattened out and finished 10th, beaten 5 1/2 lengths.

He is the morning-line favorite over the consistent Adreamisborn, who was second to pacesetting stablemate Yougottawanna while fighting a heavy speed bias in the Alamedan Handicap at Pleasanton in his last start. The last time Adreamisborn raced in a stakes on turf, he was a narrow second to Grade 1 winner Castledale in the Grade 2 San Francisco Breeders' Cup Handicap at Bay Meadows in April. He is a graded stakes winner turf and dirt, but may be a bit better on the grass.

Charbonnier comes into the race off a victory in an entry-level allowance on the Hollywood Park turf. He is owned by Barbara Walter, wife of the late Robert H. Walter, who lives in nearby Sebastopol. Walter said she thinks Charbonnier's best races are ahead of him.

"He's always been considered stronger on the turf than the dirt," she said. "He's still maturing and hasn't come up with his best race yet."

Charbonnier beat Lava Man - who went on to win the Hollywood Gold Cup - in his maiden win, but didn't score his second win until his last start.

"He's been maturing on his own and getting better and better the past year," said Charbonnier's trainer, Eoin Harty. "I think I was slow to figure out how to train him, but he's matured, and we've been patient with him."