11/09/2005 12:00AM

Dud on dirt blossoms on turf

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - On a far smaller scale, Chatham Strait is like Cigar in reverse.

When Bill Mott trained him, Chatham Strait couldn't get out of his own way when competing exclusively on dirt. But when Mott gave Chatham Strait his walking papers and sent him to Joan Scott at Tampa Bay Downs, the colt suddenly became competitive upon being moved to the grass.

Six turf races later, Chatham Strait has progressed to the point that he figures as one of the main contenders in the Friday co-feature at Churchill Downs. Two divisions of a second-level one-mile turf allowance, each sporting a purse of $54,900, share top billing on a 10-race card.

, with Brice Blanc to ride, is entered in the seventh race, the first of those co-features. A Deputy Minister colt who cost $500,000 as a yearling, Chatham Strait won twice at Tampa before moving into stakes company, where he fared respectably in several attempts. He returns Friday following a four-month layoff, having been trained by Scott at her main base, the Thoroughbred Training Center in Lexington.

Mott, of course, made racing history with the great Cigar, the two-time (1995-96) Horse of the Year who reeled off 16 straight victories after Mott assumed his training and shifted him from turf to dirt.

Chatham Strait, owned by Pinebloom Stable, is scheduled to break from post 8 in a field of 10 - not counting an also-eligible - 3-year-olds and upward. The probable favorite is , owned by the Augustin Stable and trained by Jonathan Sheppard. In his last start, Come Close rallied from far back to win an entry-level allowance Oct. 15 at Keeneland. Gary Stevens has a return call.

The second of the co-features, the ninth race, appears fairly well matched, with likely to be the favorite. Trained by Helen Pitts, Mythical Conquest was beaten just a head when favored at this same two-other-than level on Oct. 14 at Keeneland. Mark Guidry gets a return call.

Other contenders include , sixth after forcing the pace in the same Oct. 14 race at Keeneland; Load a Chronic, a creditable third at this same level at Keeneland in his latest start; and Sampson's Son, a consistent sort who has finished third or better in 12 of 18 starts.

First post is 12:40 p.m. Eastern.