06/19/2003 12:00AM

Easterners seek firm Texas turf

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GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas - In search of fair skies and firmer turf, Patrol and Statement have invaded from rain-drenched New York for the $250,000 Dallas Turf Cup at Lone Star Park on Saturday.

The 1 1/8-mile handicap drew 11 older horses and will serve as the third leg of the NTRA Summer Pick 3. The other races are the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps Handicap from Belmont and the Grade 2 Ohio Derby from Thistledown.

All three races will be televised on CBS, with the broadcast desk team to be based at Lone Star.

Patrol should go favored in the Dallas Turf Cup on the heels of his third-place finish in the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic on May 3. He is highweighted at 118 pounds along with millionaire Candid Glen.

"There are races that would be easier to get to, [but] we've had 14 inches of rain in the Northeast," said Bill Mott, who trains Patrol. "We've been rained out. That's all we talk about up here anymore."

Because of wet weather, Mott scratched Patrol from two recent stakes, including the Grade 1 Manhattan.

Weather also was the reason that trainer John Kimmel decided on Texas as the destination for Statement, who two races back defeated eventual Woodford Reserve winner Honor in War.

"We've had so much bad weather on the Eastern Seaboard," Kimmel said, adding that Lone Star "might be the only firm turf course east of the Rockies."

Patrol figures to be with the pace Saturday, while Statement should settle in behind the leaders. In his last start, Patrol set most of the pace in the Woodford before finishing two lengths behind Honor in War.

"He's fairly aggressive," Mott said of Patrol. "He's generally up in the race, [but] he's learned to rate a little better as he's gotten older."

Patrol used stalking tactics for the first time two races back, winning a $100,000 optional claimer on turf at Gulfstream Park on March 22. Mott has given the mount to Mike Luzzi.

Statement was fifth in his last start, the Grade 2 Maker's Mark at Keeneland on April 11. He did not care for the footing that afternoon because it had some give, Kimmel said. Before that race, Statement had reeled off three straight wins in allowance or optional claiming company at Gulfstream Park. Heberto Castillo Jr. will be aboard Statement.