09/29/2011 1:56PM

Delaware Park: Grace Hall going two turns


Next weekend’s $400,000 Alcibiades at Keeneland and $300,000 Frizette at Belmont Park, both Grade 1 stakes, are more lucrative and prestigious races for 2-year-old fillies. Nevertheless, trainer Tony Dutrow prefers to stay at home with star filly Grace Hall for the relatively minor $75,000 Blue Hen Stakes on Saturday at Delaware Park.

Unbeaten in her first two starts, including last month’s Grade 1 Spinaway at Saratoga, Grace Hall will stretch out beyond seven furlongs in the first time in the mile-and-70-yard Blue Hen.

“The big thing is I want to get some two-turn experience into her,” Dutrow said. “It is not easy to find a two-turn spot for her because New York has the one-turn stakes. I could have gone to Keeneland, but I wanted to keep her on the dirt. It is as simple as that.”

A two-turn race on dirt would be an ideal prep should Dutrow and the owners of Grace Hall decide she deserves a shot at the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at Churchill Downs on Nov. 4.

The 85 Beyer Speed Figure that Grace Hall earned for her 1 3/4-length score in the Spinaway gives her a substantial advantage over the six fillies she will face Saturday. None of her opponents has yet to break 70 on the Beyer scale.

Grace Hall, a daughter of Empire Maker, was purchased for $95,000 at last year’s Keeneland September sale of yearlings by a partnership that includes Michael Dubb and the Elkstone Group. The third partner, Mike Caruso, who races under the name Bethlehem Stables, was a three-time NCAA wrestling champion (1965-67) at Lehigh University. The school’s wrestling team holds its matches at Grace Hall, a 69-year-old venue that is nicknamed the “Snake Pit” and was chosen by USA Today as one of the top five indoor venues for college sports in the nation.

If Grace Hall fails to fire, the top alternatives are Doe, who finished a close second facing males in the two-turn Charles Town Juvenile two weeks ago; Always Here Too, beaten less than three lengths going a one-turn mile on Polytrack in the Grade 3 Arlington-Washington Lassie; Glinda the Good, a winner in her dirt debut going a mile and 70 yards at Monmouth Park three weeks ago; and the Larry Jones-trained Believe You Can, who stretches out beyond six furlongs for the first time after back-to-back wins sprinting at Delaware.