10/20/2006 12:00AM

Firm turf would help Atticus Kristy


In his third trip to Woodbine, Atticus Kristy will contest Sunday's Grade 2, $500,000 Nearctic Stakes, a supporting feature on Canadian International Day.

Based at Churchill Downs with trainer Merrill Scherer, Atticus Kristy finished third over yielding ground in the 2005 Nearctic. This year, he has been first or second in 6 of 9 starts over six different tracks.

Atticus Kristy captured the Grade 3 Shakertown over five furlongs at Keeneland in April. He returned here June 25 for the Grade 3 Highlander Stakes over six furlongs and finished second, beaten a half-length by longshot Marco Be Good.

In his last race, the six-furlong Kentucky Cup Turf Dash, Atticus Kristy won by 2 1/2 lengths after setting slow fractions over a course labeled good.

Scherer said he would prefer a firm turf course Sunday.

"He can handle anything, but I'd prefer a hard course," Scherer said. "For some reason, he doesn't leave as fast on a hard course."

A six-furlong race, the Nearctic has drawn a field of 13, including European shippers Moss Vale and Peace Offering, who are both trained by David Nicholls.

Moss Vale is the most accomplished of the two, having won three stakes this year, including a Group 2 in France. Last time out, he was third by a half-length going about five furlongs in one of Europe's most prestigious sprints, the Group 1 Prix de l'Abbaye de Longchamp.

Nicholls's wife and assistant, Alex, said Moss Vale was on top of his game for the Prix de l'Abbaye.

"He ran very well," she said. "They went a very quick pace. The horse who won made all the running, and he sort of tucked in behind him. He's quite adaptable. It just [depends] on how the race is being run. He's won on firm ground and heavy ground. He's held his form well all year."

Peace Offering has won 3 of 16 starts this year, including a listed stakes in Ireland last time out.

"He's improved all season," Nicholls said. "He's probably at the peak of his form now. He's a gate horse. He's usually prominent in his races."

Old Dodge, fifth in last year's Nearctic, was supplemented at a cost of $10,000. He was recently a front-running third in the Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland.

Around the Cape took the Grade 3 Jaipur Handicap over six furlongs at Belmont in May.

Fast Parade landed a minor stakes last summer at Del Mar in his grass debut.