09/25/2007 11:00PM

Distaff heads action-packed Kentucky Cup undercard

EmailFLORENCE, Ky. - Horseplayers seeking value might turn up their noses at the chalk-laden five-horse field that will race Saturday in the Kentucky Cup Classic at Turfway Park. But they could have a hard time staying away from the windows when the preceding Kentucky Cup races are run, as all four supporting races drew competitive fields of 10 or more.

The richest of those, the $175,000 Kentucky Cup Distaff, drew 14 fillies and mares, two more than are permitted to start in Turfway races. An exceptionally well-matched field makes it a great betting race, and fans will be hard-pressed to settle on a clear-cut favorite.

India, from the Todd Pletcher stable, might wind up as a lukewarm choice. A multiple graded winner of nearly $630,000, India drew post 9 in the 1 1/16-mile race and will be ridden by Chris DeCarlo. In her last race, India faded to third in the Grade 2 Molly Pitcher at Monmouth Park.

Other Distaff starters with lofty credentials include Pleasant Hill (post 11), winner of the Grade 3 Gardenia Stakes last out at Ellis Park; I'm In Love (post 12), winner of the Rosenberger at Delaware Park last out for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin; Eyes on Eddy (post 4), a multiple stakes winner of more than $540,000; and Danzon (post 1), heretofore a turf specialist making an intriguing shift to Polytrack for trainer Patrick Biancone.

The Distaff, the ninth of 12 Saturday races, had been known since 1986 as the Turfway Park Breeders' Cup but was renamed this year. It has been a part of Kentucky Cup Day since the series inception in 1994.

Sprint: Piratesonthelake in form

Another terrific wagering event is the $100,000 Kentucky Cup Sprint (race 7), which drew 11 3-year-olds. Chicago shipper Piratesonthelake, who dead-heated for the win facing older horses in his last race, the Arlington Handicap, brings the highest Beyer Speed Figures and sharpest recent form to this six-furlong race, but a handful of his rivals look nearly as dangerous, including Appealing Spring, Shore, Fate Takes a Hand, Elite Squadron, and Base Commander.

The KC Sprint has been a perennial producer of starters for the Breeders' Cup Sprint. Reraise (1998) and Cajun Beat (2003) won both races.

Juvenile: Several contenders

Only one of the 10 starters in the $100,000 Kentucky Cup Juvenile (race 8) has won more than once, and that's T.J.'s Posse, whose lone post-maiden triumph came in a minor Colonial Downs stakes for Virginia-breds. Pulaski Runner was second in the Ellis Park Juvenile, which should be enough to make him one of the favorites.

Others who figure to draw strong action in the 1 1/16-mile Juvenile include Shekinah, Poni Colada, Blackberry Road, Texas Fever, and Chitoz.

Juvenile Fillies: Bassinet rematch

The $100,000 Kentucky Cup Juvenile Fillies, which opens the series as the sixth race, features a rematch among the top three finishers in the Bassinet Stakes four weeks ago at River Downs, but that's not all. The one-mile race drew several more promising fillies fresh from maiden victories, including Latest Scoop, trained by Rusty Arnold, and Carnival City, trained by D. Wayne Lukas, easily the winningest trainer in Kentucky Cup history.

The fillies who staged a ferocious duel in the six-furlong Bassinet - Kadira and Dreabons Legacy, who finished a nose apart and 1 1/4 lengths before Palanka City - will be stretching out to a mile in this race.

Large crowd expected

Unlike at its biggest spring event, the Lane's End Stakes, which requires a $10 admission fee, Turfway does not charge admission on Kentucky Cup Day. Primarily because Street Sense will race, Turfway officials are expecting a larger crowd than in the last few years. The Kentucky Cup record was set four years ago when 11,223 attended.

* Besides the Kentucky Cup, Saturday also is the biannual College Scholarship Day at Turfway. Ten college scholarships worth $1,000 apiece will be raffled off throughout the day. The event is sponsored by the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association and Turfway.