05/04/2011 3:05PM

Churchill Downs: Man of Strife may be value play in American Turf

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The 3-year-old turf horses aren’t much easier to decipher than the 3-year-old dirt horses.

Friday’s Grade 2, $200,000 American Turf drew a full field of 14 and looks as wide open as Saturday’s Kentucky Derby and its 20-horse field.

Man of Strife is 4 for 6 in his career with all of his races coming against Louisiana-bred competition. But his efforts in his two restricted stakes victories – one on turf, one on dirt – were noteworthy. In the Gentilly, on turf, Man of Strife had to rally seven wide in the stretch and was pushed out even farther by another horse yet still managed to get up by a neck. In the Crescent City Derby, on dirt, Man of Strife was blocked a couple of different times, then was bumped by Populist Politics while attempting to come up the rail at the wire. Though beaten a nose, Man of Strife was put up to first by the stewards.

Rosie Napravnik was aboard for both of those victories and will up again on Friday from post 7.

“He’s a tiny horse, but he’ll push a bigger horse around,’’ Napravnik said. “He’s a real gutsy little horse. The course at Fair Grounds was really rough when he ran. He had a lot to handle.’’

Man of Strife should get significant pace in which to close with Great Mills, Jakesam, and Kippers n’ Eggs in the field.

A contested pace figures to help Air Support, who got up in the final stride to beat Great Mills in the Grade 3 Transylvania at Keeneland last out. Further playing into Air Support’s favor could be the fact he won the Grade 3 Pilgrim at Aqueduct over yielding turf.

Surrey Star and Banned are others that must be considered. Surrey Star won the La Puente at Santa Anita, though he got a dream trip when the rail opened up turning for home. Banned finished third, beaten just a neck in three-way photo in a second-level turf allowance that had no pace. This will be his second start off a layoff and he too has won over yielding ground.