06/22/2009 11:00PM

Features a study in contrast

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The next-to-last week of racing at the Churchill Downs spring meet features turf racing - and that's the long and the short of it.

A pair of $52,700 turf allowances - the first a marathon, the second a sprint - anchor a nine-race Thursday program that kicks off the second-to-last four-day span of the meet. The July 2-5 stretch will close out the 45-day meet.

The Thursday co-features are governed by a second-level allowance condition. The third race, for older horses going 1 3/8 miles around three turns, drew a field of just six, while the eighth race, for fillies and mares going five furlongs around one turn, got a field of 10.

Silver Mountain, a 4-year-old Victory Gallop colt, comes off a respectable fifth-place finish behind Brass Hat in the Grade 3 Louisville Handicap on May 23 and is a prime contender in the first co-feature.

"He ran pretty well there in the Louisville, so I'd imagine he'd be fairly tough in that spot Thursday," said trainer Tom Proctor.

Silver Mountain will be ridden by Miguel Mena when he tries to break an eight-race winless streak dating to May 2008. "Right now he is what he is, but you're always looking for horses to get better, and I don't see a reason why this one can't," said Proctor, who, like many Churchill trainers, will race at a variety of venues following this meet, including Saratoga, Arlington, and Ellis Park.

Tap Dancing, who defeated Silver Mountain in a scratch-laden off-the-turf race earlier in the meet, and Gloss, a winner in 2 of his last 3 starts, are among the opposition.

The eighth race is a more attractive betting race, which helps to explain its later placement on the card. More than half the field has shown signs of being able to make it through this condition, including Koka Kola Kitty, Kiawah's Magic, Swans Nest, Instrumentalist, and Grand Finesse.

Of those, maybe Instrumentalist rates the closest look. Based some 25 miles east of Churchill at the Skylight training center with Tom Drury, this 3-year-old Bernstein filly quickly knocked out her maiden and first allowance conditions before drawing serious play and faring respectably in a pair of stakes, the Bourbonette Oaks at Turfway and the Inaugural at Presque Isle Downs.

First post Thursday is 12:45 p.m. Eastern.