03/18/2007 11:00PM

Cradle switch: Will be run on turf

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The Cradle Stakes, annually the premier event of the season at River Downs in Cincinnati, will have a new look when it is renewed on Labor Day, Sept. 3. The $200,000 event for 2-year-olds will be run on turf for the first time in its 31-year history, while the Cradle distance of 1 1/16 miles, in place since 1983, will be maintained.

The decision to shift the Cradle to turf follows the creation of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, which will be run for the first time at Monmouth Park on Oct. 27.

“We looked at our race as an opportunity to become a major prep race,”

said track publicist John Engelhardt.

The Cradle was last run as a graded stakes when it was a Grade 3 in 2004, won by Bellamy Road, who later started as the favorite in the 2005 Kentucky Derby. Other prominent winners of the Cradle include the 1985 Horse of the Year, Spend a Buck, Peaks and Valleys, Coax Me Chad, Mongoose, and Harlan’s Holiday.

Attempts by River Downs officials to get the Cradle Stakes re-graded by the American Graded Stakes Committee have been unsuccessful in recent years. With the number of grass stakes for 2-year-olds expected to increase now that there is a Breeders’ Cup race for the division, the chances that the Cradle will eventually regain graded status may improve.

“With the switch to the turf and the new Breeders’ Cup race, we may see some horsemen that have never put our race on their radar before,” said the track’s racing secretary, Ed Vomacka. “It has a lot of potential.”– Vance Hanson