06/01/2001 11:00PM

'Erin' tries to get in a turf prep


STICKNEY, Ill. - Almost the first words out of trainer Tom Amoss's mouth Saturday morning were, "How's the weather up there?"

For the Churchill Downs-based Amoss, "up there" is Chicago, and as for the weather, it's been horrible. Low dark clouds have hovered over the city for two weeks, periodically spitting rain down through unseasonably cold air. Amoss knows. He's tried to run several turf horses at the Hawthorne meet, and nearly all have had to start on dirt when a race was taken off turf because of wet weather.

On Monday the latest Amoss invader, Erin Murphy, will try to get in a turf start in the first race, a one-mile allowance race that has attracted a sparkling field of nine fillies and mares, including the stakes-winning Impending Bear.

Amoss would love to get a turf start into Erin Murphy on Monday because she is slated to run June 23 in the Lincoln Heritage Stakes on the turf at Arlington Park. That race is for Illinois-breds, and Amoss said Erin Murphy was sent to him from trainer Eddie Plesa a month ago to run in state-bred company. Said Amoss of the trainer change: "Her owners," Thorobeam Farm, "want to run her in Chicago this summer. It was nothing about her last trainer."

Erin Murphy, a 5-year-old by Blair's Cove, was bred in Illinois by Irish Acres Farm and in 1999 she made nine starts at Hawthorne. Since then she has raced on the East Coast, and her tendency to finish second there tempered her success. Last year, Erin Murphy ran second eight times in her 13 starts and won only twice. She has placed in several stakes races but has never won one. But against Illinois-breds, Erin Murphy may not be able to help but win.

But first she must get past Impending Bear, who also has endured her share of frustration. In the last year, Impending Bear has run in five graded turf stakes, finishing second twice, third twice, and fourth in her last race, the Grade 3 Distaff Turf Mile. Impending Bear has bankrolled more than $223,000, yet is still eligible for this third-level allowance race.

Like Erin Murphy, Impending Bear has been training at Arlington Park and will ship across Chicago for the race. Owned by Stonerside Stable and trained by Mike Stidham, Impending Bear gets the riding services of Zoe Cadman. Cadman, who leads the jockey standings here, had a three-win day Friday.