07/11/2003 12:00AM

Four open-length winners to tussle in juvenile stakes


GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas - With four of the five 2-year-olds entered in the $75,000 Middleground Breeders' Cup having won their last starts by daylight, coming up with the winner will take some hairsplitting.

The six-furlong Middleground is one of two closing-day stakes Sunday. The other is the $60,000 Bob Johnson Memorial, which drew Grade 3 Lone Star Park Handicap winner Pie N Burger.

But back to the babies. Lone Star cards lots of races for 2-year-olds, and the Middleground tends to draw some of the best of them. Beau's County and Afternoon Charlie were both commanding maiden winners in their last start, and they figure to battle for favoritism Sunday.

Beau's County won his debut by 4 1/2 lengths May 26. He took the lead under regular rider Eddie Martin Jr. soon after being bumped at the start, and went on to cover the five furlongs in 57.80 seconds over a track rated good.

"I don't know what he beat, but he did it in a pretty good time and he did it pretty convincingly, drawing off in the stretch," said Bret Calhoun, who trains Beau's County for Coast to Coast Racing.

"We think he's one of our best 2-year-olds," Calhoun said. "We've had three or four nice 2-year-olds that won and showed they could run, and we've always felt there's not much separating them. But we always thought he may be the better one."

Beau's County, who is by Beau Genius, will break from post 5 in the Middleground.

Beau's County could find himself in a battle for the lead with Afternoon Charlie, a seven-length winner in his last start, and Lorenzon, a nine-length winner in his last start. If so, the situation would benefit Korbyn Gold.

He used stalk-and-pounce tactics to win his debut April 12, covering 4 1/2 furlongs in 51.67 seconds. Following that race, he was purchased privately by Texas-based owner Bill Heiligbrodt, who races such top horses as Posse and Lady Tak.

"A 2-year-old that runs that fast that early in the season always interests me," said Heiligbrodt.

Korbyn Gold, a son of Gold Case, is a half-brother to stakes winner Sir Pucker and will be ridden by Jeremy Beasley.

The Middleground will be shown on tape delay on ESPN2.