11/09/2008 1:00AM

Cherokee Triangle regains form


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - When he ran in the 2007 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf, Cherokee Triangle was just 7-1, a number to suggest he had quite a future on grass. Problem was, the Breeders' Cup jump-started a depressing four-race slump for the colt, and it wasn't until July that he finally regained his old form.

Now, with three straight sharp efforts under him, including a runner-up finish in the Grade 3 Hawthorne Derby in his last start, Cherokee Triangle once again is a factor among his contemporaries. As such, he will be one of the favorites Sunday when the Grade 3, $100,000 Commonwealth Turf is run for the fifth time at Churchill Downs.

"He's back doing well again," said Dr. Harvey Diamond, manager of the two multi-member syndicates that co-own Cherokee Triangle. "Hopefully he can keep it going Sunday."

Sustained progress certainly will be required. With the 1 1/16-mile Commonwealth Turf representing the last chance for most of these 3-year-olds to avoid racing against older rivals, an excellent group of 11 has turned out.

Besides Cherokee Triangle, who drew post 1 for the red-hot tandem of trainer Mike Maker and jockey Julien Leparoux, the lineup also includes Boss Lafitte, winner of the Transylvania at Keeneland and USA Stakes at Lone Star in the spring; Snoose Goose, beaten just a head by Cherokee Triangle when third in the Oct. 11 Hawthorne Derby in Chicago; Seaspeak, disqualified after crossing under the wire first in the Grade 3 Bryan Station four weeks ago on the Keeneland turf; and Amazing Results, a game runner-up in the Grade 3 Perryville on the Keeneland Polytrack last out.

Cherokee Triangle, named for a historic district in Louisville that Diamond has long frequented, has 4 wins, including three in ungraded turf stakes, from 11 overall starts. His best race might well have been his latest, when he made a steady outside run to only miss by a neck to Strait of Mewsina at Hawthorne.

For a longshot play, Nistle's Crunch bears watching. Coming from the hot Ken McPeek barn, the New Jersey-bred Nistle's Crunch was a decent sixth behind Seaspeak in the Bryan Station and will keep Robby Albarado aboard when well-drawn in post 2.

The Commonwealth Turf, won last year by Inca King, is carded as the ninth of Sunday races. First post is 12:40 p.m. Eastern.