05/24/2011 11:39AM

Churchill Downs: Move to dirt would benefit Distorted Love

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Folks who were here for the near-monsoons leading up to the Kentucky Derby will be shocked by this, but it’s raining here again. In fact, after starting up again Monday night, intermittent rains are supposed to carry all the way into Friday, meaning turf racing could be very much in doubt when racing resumes Thursday at Churchill Downs following three dark days.

Two Thursday races (5 and 8) are scheduled for turf, with the latter, a $53,500, second-level allowance, serving as the nominal feature of the nine-race card. Holidaysatthefarm, exiting four straight stakes, would be a deserving favorite for Tom Proctor, if by chance dry conditions prevail and the race stays on the grass, but, as often occurs in such cases, the race outlook will change dramatically with a surface switch.

Under that scenario, a 5-year-old mare who had a career mark of 1 for 18 before the Churchill spring meet started could become the horse to beat. Her name is Distorted Love, and she finally knocked out her first allowance condition during Derby week in an off-the-turf race at 1 1/8 miles. Distorted Love won that May 4 race by 2 1/4 lengths, breaking a 14-race losing streak that included strong back-to-back efforts over the Fair Grounds turf this winter.

“I went in thinking we’d be pretty tough on the grass as good as she’s been running and training,” trainer Helen Pitts said. “She ran huge in that last race. I guess we would be better off if the race comes off the grass, especially if it’s a drying-out track like last time. She’s a lovely mare, she really is. What it becomes if it comes off, we’ll see.”

Distorted Love will have Miguel Mena aboard again when breaking from an outer post. Eight fillies and mares were entered, although that number certainly could diminish with scratches, with Distorted Love being assigned post 7.

Besides Distorted Love and Holidaysatthefarm, other principals in the feature, which will be run at a mile on either surface, include Gaya and the recently claimed Bizzee Mizzee, although both show top form strictly on turf.

Besides the eighth-race feature and a $27,000 starter-allowance sprint that directly precedes it, the Thursday card also offers a modest carryover of $19,827 in the $2 pick six (races 4-9), but there is no carryover in the $1 super high five (race 9). First post is 12:45 p.m. Eastern.

As for the rest of the week at Churchill, the Friday card will be the third of five straight Fridays with a twilight first post of 2:45 p.m., while the Saturday card will be anchored by the first six-figure stakes here since the Derby, the $100,000 Louisville Handicap for older turf horses. Sunday and Memorial Day round out a rare five-day race week.