04/06/2006 12:00AM

Fort Prado seeks second graded stakes in Connally

Stephanie Van Minos/Tom Cooley
Fort Prado, winning the Fair Grounds BC Handicap, is 2 for 2 this year.

Fort Prado can win his second newly graded stakes race on Saturday night, when he starts as the 120-pound highweight in the Grade 3, $200,000 Connally Breeders' Cup Turf Handicap at Sam Houston Race Park.

A 1 1/8-mile turf race, the Connally is the richest stakes of the meet, and for its 12th running this year it has been elevated to graded status. A field of 12 was entered, but the front-running Onthedeanslist has been scratched, Sam Houston officials said Thursday.

Fort Prado's only graded stakes win came over Onthedeanslist in January in the Fair Grounds Breeders' Cup Handicap, a 1 1/16-mile turf race that was elevated this year to a Grade 3. Since that race, Fort Prado has won the $95,000 Tampa Bay Breeders' Cup at Tampa Bay Downs on Feb. 25, earning a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 100.

"I really like the way he's coming in," said Jeff Trosclair, who trains Fort Prado for Team Block.

has a strong finish and figures to be closer to the pace than he was last time, when racing over 1 1/16 miles at Tampa. He will break from gate 6 under Robby Albarado.

"I actually, ideally, would like to be in kind of a midpack stalking position," said Trosclair. "I think that would be a good spot to be in."

, who was a close third in the Fair Grounds Breeders' Cup, will break from the rail under E.J. Perrodin. In his last start, he shipped from Oaklawn to Sam Houston and won an optional claimer on March 4, which served as his prep for the Connally.

"I thought it was good to go down and get a race on the turf, because he hadn't run since January," said Donnie Von Hemel, who trains Waupaca. "He's doing well."

Trainer Hal Wiggins and Andrew Leggio Jr. are each chasing a fourth win in the Connally. Wiggins will send out defending champ Rapid Proof, who comes into the race off a close runner-up finish in an allowance prep for the Connally in his first start since September.

will move back to turf for the Connally. Earlier this year, he won the $150,000 Louisiana Premier Night Championship at Evangeline Downs on Feb. 18.

"We ran him one time on the turf, the Gentilly Handicap at the Fair Grounds, and he won it easy," said Leggio. "That was the only race he'd ever run on the turf. We never had a chance to run him back. So, we thought this would maybe be another opportunity to try him on turf again."

Prince T. is a half-brother to Gentlemen JJ, who was third in the Connally in 2004 for Leggio. Prince T. is also a half-brother to Fresa, a multiple stakes winner on turf who won the Sam Houston Distaff.

Proven Cure in Turf Sprint

Proven Cure, the 12-year-old who is 2 for 2 this year, will defend his title in the $40,000 Sam Houston Turf Sprint Cup at five furlongs. The race is one of two stakes supporting the Connally. The other is the $40,000 Jersey Lily, for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles, which drew the promising Stretching.