11/10/2008 12:00AM

Gate full of contenders in Red Smith if turf's wet

Email

OZONE PARK, N.Y. - After rainy conditions during midweek and a chance for more showers on Saturday, it's highly probable that the Grade 2 Red Smith Handicap - the last graded turf stakes of the New York season - will be run on a course with considerable give in the ground.

Ordinarily, whittling away horses lacking positive experience on non-firm turf can reduce the number of contenders in a jiffy. In the Red Smith, however, eight of the nine older males entered in the three-turn route have won on good, yielding, or soft ground, and the lone exception, Wheels Up at Noon, is fresh off a close second in the Cliff Hanger over good turf.

Indeed, six of the nine have turf Beyer Speed Figures in a narrow range of 99-102, and it's difficult to say with any conviction who the eventual post-time choice might be. The favorite is probably among veteran Always First, Banrock, and Lauro, at least two of which will wind up as my "A" horses in the late pick four. But a reasonable case can also be made for Summer Patriot, Strike a Deal, and Wheels Up at Noon, who are currently on the B-list.

A quick look at the A-listers:

* Always First returned to form second time back from a 375-day layoff, winning the Sycamore with a last-to-first run for trainer Tom Voss, a long-distance turf trainer who won the 2004 Red Smith with Dreadnaught.

"He's basically a fresh horse," said Voss. "He ran about a quarter-mile in his last race, and not at all the race before, so he's just bucking and squealing."

* Banrock has kept a once-a-month racing schedule since April. Though he came up short of sweeping the year's four major statebred turf stakes, his rallying fourth in the Mohawk was a typically solid performance. DRF Formulator's incremental pace tab shows he ran the fourth quarter in 22.74 seconds and the last eighth in 11.38, for a final three-eighths in 34.12 seconds. Keep in mind that the New York-bred Dave won this race last year.

* Lauro, returning from a long layoff, finished off the board in the Canadian International, then improved three weeks later to wire the Sky Classic after being chased throughout by $1 million earner Seaside Retreat, running the last five furlongs in 1:00.40 over a yielding course. Trainer Andreas Wohler is among Germany's best, having developed such horses as Silvano, an Arlington Million winner, and Sabiango, a Group 1 winner in Germany and the United States.

Mrs. Revere: Edge to Acoma

The turf racing season is also winding down in Kentucky, so it's not surprising that 11 3-year-old fillies entered the Grade 2 Mrs. Revere at Churchill Downs.

My Princess Jess is the 2-1 morning-line choice, and deservedly so, after being beaten less than two lengths in back-to-back Grade 1's at 1o1/8 miles. While she is 4-1-0 from 5 starts at the Mrs. Revere's 1 1/16-mile distance, she'll need some racing luck breaking from the far outside post, and the word "steadied" already appears in five of her nine races - so she's a tough single despite her attributes.

Acoma was a determined winner of the Valley View first time on turf, and figures close if she can avoid regressing three weeks later.

Florida Million matchups

Calder's Florida Million offers several interesting stakes. The highlights:

* Silver Tree and Soldier's Dancer stand out in the Bonnie Heath at 1o1/8 miles on the turf. Formulator's lifetime past performances reveal that Silver Tree recorded Beyers of 102-102-104 in three previous starts over Calder turf - back in 2004-05. Soldier's Dancer beat Silver Tree at Tampa Bay Downs in April, and has been in raging form since returned from a freshening.

w Frolic's Dream is the fastest 2-year-old filly in the nation - at least based on the 105 Beyer she got in the Cassidy Stakes at 5 1/2 furlongs. She can bounce in the seven-furlong Joe O'Farrell Juvenile Fillies and still might win, but Pink Gloss was only a length behind her when brought back from an eight-week layoff in September. Pink Gloss improved to win easily in the slop 18 days later, and seems like the only viable alternative.

* It's a Bird comes off a win in the Grade 3 Spend a Buck Handicap and meets several of the same rivals in the $200,000 Carl G. Rose Classic, including Sweetnorthernsaint, the beaten favorite in the 2006 Kentucky Derby. The new face is Actin Good, who ships in off paired 97 Beyer tops, capped by a fourth in the Grade 2 Meadowlands Cup. He didn't fire in Calder's Fred Hooper Handicap when shipped down from New Jersey last year, but had post 12 for that race, and drew more favorably this time.