02/12/2004 12:00AM

'Faunty' should win, if in

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Elliott Walden is a better horse trainer than weather predictor. So as he tried to determine where to ship Ole Faunty, who is cross-entered Saturday in the Dust Commander at Turfway Park and the John B. Campbell at Laurel Park, Walden wondered aloud if weather would override his preferred option.

"The $64,000 question is whether Turfway will run or not," said Walden.

At Turfway, Ole Faunty figures as a solid favorite under Rafael Bejarano in the $50,000 Dust Commander, but familiar freeze-and-thaw weather patterns have led to frequent cancellations in recent weeks at the Florence, Ky., track. This week, in fact, the Wednesday and Thursday programs were canceled. Walden's dilemma focused on whether he should figure on another canceled card at Turfway and send Ole Faunty on an 11-hour van ride from Louisville to Laurel, Md., for the $150,000 Campbell.

"The one goal this winter with Ole Faunty is to win a stake," said Walden, speaking Thursday from Payson Park in south Florida, where most of his horses are stabled. "I know we'd be tough at Turfway, but if he can't run there, we want to run at Laurel, although we'd have to run against Evening Attire in the Campbell."

Ole Faunty, owned by Tom VanMeter and Doug Hendrickson, is a 5-year-old gelding by Quiet American out of Main Topic, a mare VanMeter owns. "She's a young mare, and it would really help Tom if one of her first foals could get some black type," Walden said. "It's the reason we kept him up north instead of me bringing him down here."

If Turfway runs Saturday, then Ole Faunty is likely to get the job done in the one-mile Dust Commander. As a winner in five of 10 career starts, the gelding appears to have a sizable edge in ability over his seven rivals despite having just made it through his allowance conditions by winning a four-other-than route race at Laurel.

Ole Faunty would be saddled at Turfway by David Fortner, Walden's longtime assistant, who announced in November that he was opening his own public stable. Fortner, based at Trackside in Louisville, expects to run his first starter next month.

If Ole Faunty fails to run to expectations, a mild upset could come from Doc D, winner of the 6 1/2-furlong Forego Stakes three weeks ago.

First post for a 12-race Saturday card at Turfway is 1:10 p.m. Eastern. The Dust Commander is the 10th race.