08/01/2009 12:00AM

Colonel John conquers turf

Benoit & Associates
Colonel John wins the Wickerr on the Del Mar turf Friday under Garrett Gomez.

DEL MAR, Calif. - The issue of what to do with Colonel John for the rest of this summer went largely ignored between Bill Casner of WinStar Farm and trainer Eoin Harty on Saturday morning, a day after the colt's convincing win in his turf debut in the $91,970 Wickerr Stakes at Del Mar.

The Wickerr was intended as a prep race for the $500,000 Woodward Stakes at Saratoga on Sept. 5 or the $1 million Pacific Classic here on Sept. 6. Instead, Colonel John could follow a different career path - on turf.

"We've danced around every issue but Colonel John," Harty said, while watching horses work in Del Mar's stand alongside Casner.

"You end up talking more when they don't do as good," Casner said.

There was no need for an immediate decision on Colonel John's next race. One turf option is the $300,000 Del Mar Mile on Aug. 29.

Colonel John won the Wickerr by two lengths over Becrux, recording the fifth stakes win of his career. The Wickerr was Colonel John's first start since a fourth in the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes at Santa Anita last December. He was sidelined in late winter by an illness that kept him out of the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap in March.

Last year, Colonel John won the Santa Anita Derby and Travers Stakes and was sixth in the Kentucky Derby.

In the Wickerr, Colonel John ($6.80) ran a mile on turf in a quick 1:32.77, performing like a veteran on the surface. Ridden by Garrett Gomez, Colonel John was fifth in a field of 10 for the first half-mile, chasing a quick pace of 22.43 and 45.76 seconds set by Get Funky. Colonel John reach contention with a three-wide move on the final turn and took the lead in early stretch.

"He covers a lot of ground," Gomez said Saturday morning. "He's well rounded. He's won on the dirt, the synthetic, and the grass. He's just a machine. It doesn't matter what surface he runs on."

No shortage of foes for Zenyatta

Zenyatta has been part of six-horse fields in her two wins this year, the Grade 2 Milady and Grade 1 Vanity handicaps at Hollywood Park. She may be challenged by a larger field when she attempts to stretch her undefeated streak to 12 in the $300,000 Clement Hirsch Stakes on Sunday.

As of Saturday, eight other horses were being considered for the Gradeo1 Hirsch, which is run over 1o1/16 miles. Zenyatta, the champion older female of 2008, could face Anabaa's Creation, Briecat, Champagne Eyes, Dawn After Dawn, Hot n' Dusty, Life Is Sweet, Patricia's Gem, and Tidal Dance. Trainers John Sadler (Dawn After Dawn) and Richard Mandella (Patricia's Gem) said they are also looking toward the $350,000 John Mabee Stakes on turf on Aug. 16.

Life Is Sweet, who was second in the Milady, was scheduled to work five furlongs on Sunday, which will determine her participation. Like Zenyatta, she is trained by John Shirreffs.

Regardless of how many show up, Zenyatta will be heavily favored in search of her 10th consecutive stakes win.