09/16/2003 11:00PM

Continental Red: It's about the money

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Continental Red, the hard-hitting California gelding poised to become a millionaire, will meet two similarly accomplished veterans from the East Saturday in the $200,000 Kentucky Cup Turf at Kentucky Downs.

Rochester, winner of the Grade 3 KC Turf last year for trainer Jonathan Sheppard, and Cetewayo, a multiple graded winner trained by Michael Dickinson, are the other major players in what is shaping up as an excellent renewal of the Turf.

The Turf is the highlight of the sixth annual Kentucky Cup Turf Festival at Kentucky Downs, the grass-only course located just outside the south-central Kentucky town of Franklin, Ky.

Continental Red, trained by Ian Jory, was scheduled to arrive Thursday from California, where he has been in terrific form. A 7-year-old gelding with earnings of $974,203, Continental Red was beaten just a head in his last start, the Grade 2 Del Mar Handicap on Aug. 31.

"He's doing great right now and really looks good," Jory said Wednesday from Hollywood Park. "I'm very much looking forward to being back at Kentucky Downs. I love that place."

Last year, Continental Red finished third, beaten seven lengths by Rochester in the 1 1/2-mile KC Turf. But Jory said his horse was compromised by a turf course that had been softened by heavy rain. There has been little precipitation in recent days at Kentucky Downs, and without any rain in the forecast, firm turf appears likely for Saturday.

Rochester, a winner of $713,897 for Augustin Stable, has finished second or third in his last three starts, but has gone eight straight races without a win. He captured the Sycamore Stakes last October at Keeneland in his first start following the KC Turf, then began his current losing streak. Rochester is cross-entered in the $200,000 Caesar Rodney Handicap at Delaware Park, a turf race in jeopardy of being transferred to the main track because of a forecast for heavy rain.

Cetewayo, owned by Dr. John Chandler of Lexington, Ky., is a 9-year-old horse who has won two Grade 1 races and more than $1.1 million. Based at Dickinson's Tapeta Farm in northeast Maryland, Cetewayo has lost six straight races since his last victory, in the Stars and Stripes at Arlington Park in July 2002.

Besides the Turf, which was expected to attract a field of maybe seven or eight older horses when entries were to be taken Thursday, three other stakes help fill out the Saturday action. The Turf Festival follows by one week the annual Kentucky Cup dirt series at sister track Turfway Park.

In the other Turf Festival races:

* Mystery Giver is one of a handful of horses expected to make the eight-hour van ride from Chicago for the Turf Festival. He will be one of the favorites in the $100,000 Kentucky Cup Mile.

Trained by Chris Block, Mystery Giver most recently finished second as the odds-on favorite in the Aug. 17 John Henry Handicap at Arlington Park. Among the notable races that Mystery Giver has won while compiling a bankroll of nearly $600,000 are the 2002 Sea o' Erin at Arlington and the 2003 Fair Grounds Breeders' Cup Handicap.

The other probables for the Mile include Cat Tracker, Gretchen's Star, Last Stand, and Red Mountain.

* Trainer Elliott Walden didn't win the $100,000 Kentucky Cup Ladies last year, but that's probably because he didn't have a horse in the race. Walden swept the first four runnings of the Ladies and will be back Saturday with Peacefally and Voodoo Lady.

Other probables for the one-mile Ladies include Curious Conundrum, Flager, Maliziosa, and Two Dot Slew.

* This weekend also marks the one-year anniversary of Bonapaw's career pinnacle. Bonapaw turned heads last Sept. 21, when he romped to victory in the Grade 1 Vosburgh at Belmont Park. But unfortunately for owner Dennis Richard and trainer Norman Miller 3rd, the gelding has gone winless in eight races since.

Saturday, Bonapaw will turn back to six furlongs for only the second turf start of his career in the $100,000 Kentucky Cup Turf Dash. "We're getting back to what he does best, and that's sprinting on the front end," said Miller.

A tough field is likely for the Dash, the other likely starters being Abderian, Callthesheriff, Fredericktown, No Jacket Required, Red Lightning, Take Achance on Me, and Testify.

Private Horde preps in Marfa at Turfway Park

The six races Saturday at Kentucky Downs will be part of the same program with 10 from Turfway in Florence, Ky., meaning the card will comprise 16 races.

The Saturday feature at Turfway is the $75,000 Marfa Stakes, a 6 1/2-furlong race that trainer Joe Cain is hoping will serve as a final prep for the Breeders' Cup Sprint for stable star Private Horde. In his last start, Private Horde won the Grade 2 A.G. Vanderbilt Stakes on Aug. 10 at Saratoga.

A field of perhaps eight to 10 older horses is expected for the Marfa.