06/23/2004 11:00PM

Dirt flops return Master David to turf

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Graded stakes winners Icy Atlantic and Timo are in top form, but the most intriguing entrant in Saturday's Grade 3, $250,000 Kent Breeders' Cup at Delaware Park is a 3-year-old whose season has mostly been a disappointment on dirt.

If he runs, Master David, far back in both the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont Stakes, will be returning to turf for the first time since going 1 for 3 to start his career in England last summer. He could have won all three of those races, but fell a nose short in one and a neck short in the other. All three were sprints against maidens.

Master David's best races this season came when he was able to be placed close to the early pace, as he was when he won the nine-furlong Sham at Santa Anita and finished a close second in the Wood Memorial.

Since Master David's flop in the Belmont, trainer Bobby Frankel has been toying with the idea of returning Master David to the turf.

"I think his style will be good for the grass," Frankel said.

Master David's first race on turf in the United States, however, won't necessarily come in Saturday's 1 1/8-mile Kent. He is also nominated to the Grade 3 Virginia Derby, a 1 1/4-mile race worth $500,000 on July 10 at Colonial Downs.

Frankel will most likely have to search for a back-up rider for Master David if he runs in the Kent, because the jockey he named, Jose Santos, is also scheduled to ride Miss Coronado in the Mother Goose on Saturday at Belmont.

Bettors may have a difficult time separating the two most accomplished turf horses in the Kent field, Icy Atlantic and Timo.

Icy Atlantic, trained by Todd Pletcher, brings a three-race winning streak into the Kent. Most recently, he won the Grade 3 Jersey Derby at Monmouth, in which he earned a 93 Beyer Speed Figure.

Timo, trained by Bill Badgett, won the Grade 3 Transylvania at Keeneland with a 91 Beyer, but wasn't quite good enough to beat the talented Artie Schiller in the Woodlawn at Pimlico and the Hill Prince at Belmont in his last two starts.

Commendation, trained by Graham Motion, was beaten less than two lengths by Icy Atlantic and Timo in his last two starts and could prove the spoiler.

"He was really closing at the end," said Motion of Commendation's close second in the Jersey Derby. "We took him a little farther back from off the pace than we had been and I think that was the key for him running such a solid race."