03/05/2002 12:00AM

Conditions suit Royal Romp best


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - At first glance it's hard to believe Thursday's $46,000 allowance feature at Gulfstream Park is carded for the turf, considering that the combined grass record of the eight horses in the body of the race is three wins from 46 starts.

But the reason for the unusual field for a turf race that has such a big purse is its conditions - for 4-year-olds and up who have never won a race other than maiden claimer or starter at a mile or over on the turf.

That is why Royal Romp, a 7-year-old who is winless in seven tries on the grass, is the horse to beat. And two rivals who have never run on grass, On the Game and Red's Honor, may prove his main adversaries.

Royal Romp has run well on the grass in the past, suffering a pair of setbacks by a nose on the turf near the end of the 2001 campaign, including a loss in Philadelphia Park's Yankee Affair Stakes. He also held his own against a graded-stakes-caliber field of grass specialists here two weeks ago when he was beaten less than two lengths by Stokosky and Whata Brainstorm.

On the Game, who is nominated for Sunday's Creme Fraiche Handicap over the main track, won five of eight starts and finished worse than second just once in 2001. He opened the 2002 campaign finishing fourth behind multiple Grade 1 winner Sir Bear in the Grade 3 Skip Away Handicap, and finished fourth when dropped in against allowance company five weeks later. He is not well bred for grass, however, owning a low 243 Tomlinson turf rating.

Red's Honor has slightly more breeding for turf, being by Glitterman out of a Woodman mare, which gives him a 325 Tomlinson turf rating. A speedy 4-year-old, Red's Honor, who is eligible for Saturday's Gulfstream Park Sprint Championship on dirt, closed out his 3-year-old campaign with three stakes victories against restricted company at Hoosier Park and opened the 2002 season finishing third behind Hook and Ladder in the Grade 3 Mr. Prospector Handicap.

Marco's Word has the best turf record in the field, winning once and finishing off the board only once in five previous tries. He will be making his first start in nearly three months on Thursday.

Uncle Rocco has one victory and nine in-the-money finishes from 16 starts on turf, and figures to force the early pace with Red's Honor.

Mandango has several near misses against allowance company on grass and his late-running style would make him the major beneficiary of a fast pace.

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