06/19/2002 12:00AM

Dozen pieces in turf puzzler


ELMONT, N.Y. - Handicappers will have their work cut out for them as they sort through the past performances of an evenly matched field of grass runners in Friday's featured eighth race on the sunset racing card.

Twelve older males drew into the main body of the race, plus there's one also eligible, Man From Wicklow. There are three main track only horses, Top Bunk, Pleasant Breeze, and U. S. Gold.

The allowance race, which carries a $56,000 purse, will be run at 1 1/4 miles over the inner turf. Post time is 6:36 p.m. Eastern.

This race easily could be a stakes and features several stakes competitors, including Craigsteel, Gritty Sandie, Rob's Spirit, Eltawaasul, and Harrisand.

Craigsteel is eligible to go off as the favorite in his second start of the year. Craigsteel, who nearly pulled off an upset in the Grade 1 Turf Classic at Belmont in 2000, finished ninth in the Elkhorn Stakes at Keeneland in April. A 7-year-old who is trained by Christophe Clement, Craigsteel was beaten only 4 1/2 lengths and should move forward off that effort.

Jose Santos will have to maneuver Craigsteel, who has tactical speed, into a favorable position from post 10.

Rob's Spirit, who won the Grade 3 Lexington at Belmont in 2000, must rebound from his two losses in as many starts this year. Those races came at distances shorter than 1 1/4 miles, which appears to be Rob's Spirit's preferred trip.

Jerry Bailey rides Rob's Spirit for trainer Bill Mott.

Harrisand, a 4-year-old who is trained by Bobby Frankel, will try to make it two wins in a row. He won a third-level allowance race in his last start at Belmont on May 26.

Jean-Luc Samyn has the mount on Harrisand, a winner in France at Friday's distance.

Gritty Sandie failed to reach the winner's circle in eight starts last year, but still managed to earn $112,670.

Thesaurus, a classy 8-year-old with more than $600,000 in the bank, makes his first start for trainer Todd Pletcher. Thesaurus, who hasn't raced since June 2001, has some decent works for his return.

Keats and Yeats, another 8-year-old, has not competed in 2 1/2 years. His previous races suggest he should be competitive with this field, but Keats and Yeats undoubtedly needs a race or two under his belt before reaching his old form.

Among the main track only horses, Pleasant Breeze is the pick. Pleasant Breeze won his last two starts in allowance races after rain moved those turf events to the main track.

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