09/17/2003 11:00PM

Continental Red wants it firm

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Although the remnants of Hurricane Isabel are supposed to eventually creep westward from the Eastern seaboard, they apparently won't hit this area of the country in time to prevent the Kentucky Cup Turf Festival from being run amid ideal conditions Saturday at Kentucky Downs in Franklin, Ky.

That's great news for Ian Jory, the trainer who has brought one of the major contenders, Continental Red, from California for the Festival showcase, the $200,000 Kentucky Cup Turf at 1 1/2 miles.

"My horse wants the course as hard as it can be," said Jory. "Last year when we came there, there had been quite a bit of rain before the big day. My horse ran a big race, but I really thought he was compromised by the wet ground."

Last year, Continental Red finished third behind victorious Rochester in the Grade 3 KC Turf, the richest of four races in the Festival at turf-only Kentucky Downs. This time, coming off a sharp runner-up finish in the Grade 2 Del Mar Handicap, Continental Red figures to be well backed to make amends and become the latest millionaire in racing. Continental Red, a 7-year-old California-bred gelding owned by Sharon Fitzpatrick, enters with earnings of $974,203 from 52 career starts.

The main rivals to Continental Red are Quest Star, entered off back-to-back seconds in the Bowling Green at Belmont and Fourstardave at Saratoga, and Kim Loves Bucky, a turf marathon specialist with multiple stakes wins in Kentucky.

Two shippers from the Delaware Valley also figure strongly - Cetewayo, a multiple Grade 1 winner for trainer Michael Dickinson, and Rochester, the defending champion. Rochester was cross-entered Saturday in the Caesar Rodney at his home track of Delaware Park, but with Hurricane Isabel sweeping up the East Coast, that race appeared likely to be transferred to the main track.

The other races in the Festival, which comes a week after main-track specialists took the spotlight in the Kentucky Cup at Turfway Park, are the $100,000 Turf Dash, $100,000 Ladies Turf, and $100,000 Mile.

The Festival is part of a 16-race card that also includes 10 races from Turfway and two other races from Kentucky Downs. First post is 1:10 p.m. Eastern.