07/10/2007 11:00PM

Footing key in turf sprint


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - The co-featured sixth race on Friday at Arlington Park is carded for about five furlongs on turf, and racing surface means everything in terms of handicapping here. Miner's Lamp and Giant Hit both look talented enough to factor in this second-level allowance race, but both are unproven on turf. Shark will run his race if the turf is firm, but dislikes the footing he gets on wet grass.

There are five others in race 6, and two other allowance races worthy of note Friday. The ninth is another second-level allowance, this for fillies and mares over 1 1/16 miles on Polytrack. Cheyenne Spirit finished second in a similar race in late May, and with leading rider Rene Douglas named, the betting public may give her the nod in a race lacking clear favorites.

Race 10 is a second-level allowance of the Illinois-bred variety, and those playing the late pick four will have to perform mental gymnastics to get around using Jazz Quest. Jazz Quest won a turf stakes at Fair Grounds and comes off a pair of thirds in graded turf stakes at Churchill. To say he takes a serious class drop Friday is to say too little.

Back in race 6, Shark may have a solid shot to notch an overdue third victory. Trained by Jeff Thornbury for Overbrook Farm, Shark won his turf debut over the winter at Fair Grounds, and won it fairly impressively, but he was fifth over good ground in a Keeneland turf sprint, and an even fourth as the favorite on yielding turf June 3 at Arlington.

"Absolutely, he likes it firm," Thornbury said. "I don't think he likes his foot hitting the ground much - he just likes his toe to go in. He's a nice horse, just a notch below being a top horse."

Between the Keeneland and Arlington grass races, Shark was beaten a neck in a Polytrack sprint, and a move to turf would not hinder his chances. The Dallas Stewart-trained Miner's Lamp also is an Overbrook horse, so he and Shark are coupled in the wagering.

The Giant Hit camp - owner Louie Roussel and trainer Lara Van Deren - are kind of hoping for a rain-off onto Polytrack, but Giant Hit might turn out to be a much better horse on turf than he showed in his only try on the surface. That came in April 2006, and Giant Hit bore out badly on the first turn of a one-mile race at Hawthorne.

"He seemed to be getting over it okay, but I think it just blew his mind," Van Deren said.