12/23/2003 12:00AM

Dubai Sheikh wants it fast


FLORENCE, Ky. - Dubai Sheikh's greatest worry in Saturday's $50,000 Holiday Cheer Stakes may not be alongside him, but overhead. A stakes-winning sprinter on a fast track, he has been considerably less effective in the mud, putting him at the mercy of the weather.

But if conditions are dry - and the early Saturday forecast for the Turfway area calls for party cloudy skies - his opponents are likely running for second-place in the six-furlong Holiday Cheer.

Dubai Sheikh, a 4-year-old son of Kayrawan owned by Ken and Sarah Ramsey, won the Don Bernhardt at Ellis Park over the summer when sprinting on a fast track, and his last five fast-track Beyer Speed Figures have been in the range of 95-103. In comparison, none of his opponents has run faster than a 94 Beyer in their last four starts.

Dubai Sheikh has not run nearly as quickly on wet tracks. He struggled over sloppy tracks at Churchill Downs this fall, finishing sixth in the Ack Ack and third of four in a money allowance in his last start Nov. 27.

He made a menacing inside move in that allowance to challenge victorious Deer Lake, but could not sustain his run and was beaten in a photo for second. He lost by 1 1/2 lengths and earned an 85 Beyer.

"He ran better that day," said trainer Dale Romans. "But I don't think he is as good in the mud."

Dubai Sheikh is more than the fastest sprinter in the field. He also appears to be the classiest. A four-time winner this year, he heads into the Holiday Cheer with 2003 earnings of over $189,000 - a rich bankroll for a sprinter who typically races in the rear half of the pack during the early part of his races.

"He's a one-run sprinter," said Romans. "Hopefully, he'll catch a fast track, and there won't be a speed bias at Turfway."

Jason Lumpkins, who rode Dubai Sheikh to victory in the Don Bernhardt, regains the mount.

Although there is little pace in the Holiday Cheer, the likely front-runner, Wild Lies, is a former $10,000 claimer that may not have the class necessary to capitalize on a pace advantage.

Crowned Dancer and Founding Chairman, two horses with some tactical speed, appear to be Dubai Sheikh's principal challengers. Crowned Dancer won the Grade 3 Hollywood Juvenile Championship as a 2-year-old in July of last year, but has lost nine straight races since that victory. Founding Chairman, meanwhile, has hit the board in all six of his races while racing in maiden and entry-level allowance races.