10/22/2004 12:00AM

As Expected could upset Nearctic

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario - There are many exceptional horses running at Woodbine on Sunday in the two Grade 1 stakes on the card, the Pattison Canadian International and the E.P. Taylor. However, the fastest turf runner on the program might be As Expected, a longshot possibility in the Grade 2, $282,750 Nearctic Handicap.

As Expected was an astute $40,000 claim last fall by trainer Radlie Loney, who took him specifically to try to make a turf specialist out of him. The plan has worked to perfection.

"I don't know why nobody had ever tried him on the grass," Loney said. "He's a completely different kind of horse on the grass."

As Expected won his first two turf races convincingly, but after setting a ridiculously fast pace in a 1 3/8-mile allowance on July 18, he blew a 20-length lead and had to settle for fifth.

Loney believes As Expected was caught off guard by the closing winner when second in each of his last two outings, a pair of optional claimers.

"The horses who beat him in his last two starts both came way wide down the grandstand side, and he couldn't see them coming," Loney said. "He always digs in - he's a fighter. If it wasn't for a little misfortune, he could be 5 for 5 on the turf."

Hour of Justice, the lone filly in the six-furlong Nearctic, could be the favorite.

Hour of Justice has won 7 of 10 starts, including two sprint stakes on the grass. She was recently third under Todd Kabel going a mile in the Grade 3 Noble Damsel Handicap at Belmont.

"I thought she ran her race last time," said trainer Mike Keogh. "I couldn't find any excuse for her, although Todd thought she didn't like that turf course very much."

Keogh said he is running Hour of Justice against the boys because there are limited opportunities for turf sprinters at Woodbine.

Crystal Castle was a close second in the Group 1 Golden Jubilee Stakes going six furlongs at Ascot in June. He makes his debut on this side of the pond for Southern California trainer Darrell Vienna, who won the 2002 Nearctic with Nuclear Debate.

Chris's Bad Boy, Woodbine's course-record holder for 6 1/2 furlongs on turf, is coming off a troubled run in the Grade 3 Play the King Handicap.

"He got bumped and squeezed," said trainer Vito Armata, who pointed out that Chris's Bad Boy has recorded two bullet works this month.