12/02/2009 12:00AM

Crested racing with a tag in turf mile


Wally Dollase was born in 1937. He sent out his first winner as a horse trainer back in 1967 at Bay Meadows. At the age of 71, Dollase decided to run a Fair Grounds string for the first time during the 2008-2009 meeting. Old dog, meet new trick.

Dollase's Fair Grounds experiment turned out beautifully. His stable had 33 starters at last season's meet, and not only did nine of the horses win, 20 finished third or better. In Fair Grounds turf races, Dollase-trained runners went 4-3-2 from 13 starts, with House of Silver especially effective over the Fair Grounds grass. Dollase has returned for another Fair Grounds season, and this time, he won't be sneaking up on anyone. Crested, for instance, is the 5-2 morning-line favorite in featured race 8 on Friday in New Orleans, a third-level optional claimer over a mile on turf.

Crested once was a listed-stakes or Grade 3-class turf miler, but at age 6, he has declined somewhat from his peak seasons. Class relief seems in order, which is why Dollase and The Horizon Stable, the horse-owning partnership Dollase put together in 1994, have decided to offer Crested for a $62,500 claiming price Friday, the first time the gelding has started for a tag of any sort.

The class drop could produce a win, since Crested showed he handles the Fair Grounds course with a solid third behind Transduction Gold and Sterwins in a high-end allowance race last February. Crested scored his lone victory of 2009 two starts ago, capturing an allowance race at Delaware Park, but a yielding turf course at Keeneland on Oct. 24 rendered Crested ineffective. He finished a fading fifth in a false-paced slog of an allowance race that afternoon but has since posted three timed workouts, the last two after shipping south to Fair Grounds. Francisco Torres rides Crested for the first time.

Crested is one of seven in the main body of the field, with three more horses entered main track only. Four others scheduled to start on turf also were entered under the race's claiming option, including Gran Estreno, who won the Grade 3 Washington Park Handicap on Arlington Polytrack three races ago. Gran Estreno handles turf, too, and fits Friday's spot if his best 2009 work is not behind him.

Dry conditions are forecast Friday, but if rain should move the feature to dirt, Mad Flatter must be considered. Talented and injury prone, Mad Flatter flopped in his grass debut Nov. 6 at Churchill but ran an extremely fast dirt route over the Fair Grounds track last January.