11/17/2005 12:00AM

Futurity gets big field after surface switch


The numbers speak for themselves.

After just five horses competed in last year's Laurel Futurity, when it was run on the main track, the race was shifted to the track's newly refurbished turf course for 2005.

Although Laurel sacrificed the Futurity's Grade 3 status by switching surfaces, that drawback was more than offset by increased interest at the entry box.

A full field of 14 2-year-olds, including an entry from Bud Delp, will contest Saturday's 83rd running of the Laurel Futurity at 1 1/16 miles on the turf. The race was also run on grass six times in the late 1980's and early 1990's.

The best Beyer Speed Figure belongs to , a Todd Pletcher-trained colt who earned an 86 for finishing second in the $125,000 Bourbon County at Keeneland last time out. Wedding Singer also was stakes-placed in the Grade 2 Summer at Woodbine.

and Barbaro both come from strong turf barns and exit impressive performances against maidens.

Rock Lobster, trained by Michael Dickinson, drew off to a four-length win going six furlongs at Belmont Park a month ago. Based on his pedigree, this grandson of Blushing Groom should be capable of stretching out to 1 1/16 miles.

, trained by Michael Matz, acted up at the gate in his career debut, but his mind was strictly on racing once the bell rang as he defeated 10 rivals by 8 1/2 lengths going a mile at Delaware Park.

Others to consider include Creve Coeur, who makes his first start on turf for trainer Graham Motion after winning the Maryland Million Nursery via disqualification; Vegas Play, part of Delp's entry, who returns to the turf for the first time since winning his maiden on Aug. 1; and Tent, a European import who has been racing in minor events in England.

Large fields are the common denominator on the undercard. In addition to the Futurity, three other stakes - the Selima, Laurel Turf Cup, and April Run - are expected to have full fields of 14. A starter handicap with 12 runners and the Anne Arundel with 11 horses also should be good betting races.

* The Todd Pletcher-trained J'ray, a deep closer coming off a win in the $112,000 Jessamine County at Keeneland, and Art Show, wire-to-wire winner of the Salem County at The Meadowlands, are the most accomplished 2-year-old fillies in the 79th running of the $100,000 Selima. The race, moved from the main track this year, was previously run on turf five times.

* The speedy Trickle of Gold, winner of her last five starts, including the Grade 3 Safely Kept at Laurel, is the clear-cut favorite in the $100,000 Anne Arundel, a one-mile race for 3-year-old fillies.

* The $75,000 Laurel Turf Cup, a 1 1/8-mile race that was a Grade 3 event from 1985 to 2000, makes its return with a competitive group of older horses that includes Spruce Run, a Grade 3 winner at Hawthorne two races ago; Battle Chant, easy winner of the Schapiro Memorial BC Handicap at Laurel in September; and Dreadnaught, third in the Grade 2 Red Smith Handicap at Aqueduct last weekend.

* Sensibly Chic, a Grade 2 winner at Belmont this summer, will be heavily favored in the $75,000 Stefanita for fillies and mares.

* If the turf is soft, Smart N Classy, winner of the Grade 3 Eatontown Handicap at Monmouth, and Spring Season, who captured the Dr. James Penny Memorial Handicap at Philadelphia Park, would move up in the $75,000 April Run. The 1 1/8-mile race for fillies and mares was last run in 2001. On a firm course, Art Fan and Moon Dazzle would be dangerous.

* Marley Hart, Foxs Gold Digger, and Dixie Colony - all winners on last month's Maryland Million Day card - meet in the $50,000 Maryland Million Starter Handicap at one mile.