11/23/2005 1:00AM

County back on preferred surface


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - County was razor-sharp heading into the summer meet at Del Mar, but the 3-year-old's options were limited - either run on turf, or run against older.

Trainer Neil Drysdale chose to keep , a Menifee gelding bred for dirt, in his own division, and entered him in the one-mile Oceanside Stakes for 3-year-olds on turf opening day of the meet. County pressed a fast pace, backed up, and finished seventh.

It was worth a shot, but it turns out that County cannot handle grass. That would make him an appropriate winner when he returns to the main track in the best race at Hollywood Park on Friday.

A field of 10 entered the 1 1/16-mile two-other-than allowance, which has a $62,500 claiming option. County's surface preference suits the theme of the dirt-only fall meet, but he has other attributes. The fact is, County is a good, fast horse.

A lightly raced presser whose three starts at Hollywood produced two wins and a second, County enters race 5 as a leading contender in the richest race on the card. County has won 2 of 7.

His main rivals include , whose habitual quarter cracks have prevented an extended campaign; and seven others with various levels of ability.

The Beyer Figure par for a two-other-than at Hollywood Park is 101; three of the starters in race 5 have run within 5 points of par this year at Hollywood. County earned a 98 finishing second in a one-other-than on May 15; Molengao earned 98 finishing sixth in the Grade 2 Californian in June; and El Elogiado earned 98 finishing fourth in a two-other-than in June.

While County drops slightly in class from a restricted stakes to a two-other-than, a 2-year-old running in race 6 will be taking a monumental drop. Jealous Profit, 10th in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, drops from that Grade 1 into a maiden route that will serve as his prep for next month's Hollywood Futurity. That is, if he is good enough.

Jealous Profit finished third in successive Grade 2's - the Del Mar Futurity and Norfolk Stakes - before the Breeders' Cup. Trained by Doug O'Neill, his established class gives him the advantage in the six-horse field racing 1 1/16 miles. Others include Twisting Road, a Giant's Causeway colt stretching out for this third start; Wanna Runner, who may be better than his two starts in summer appear; and dropper Plug Me In.