09/20/2007 12:00AM

General Jumbo getting his preferred firm turf

EmailDrought has enveloped much of Kentucky for most of the summer, which is bad news for farmers but probably good news on Saturday for General Jumbo, one of the main contenders in the $200,000 Kentucky Cup Turf, the signature event at Kentucky Downs in Franklin, Ky.

"Whenever I've run him long, it's been over a yielding turf, and he didn't care for it," said Graham Motion, the trainer of General Jumbo.

But in his last start, the 1 5/8-mile John's Call Stakes over a firm Saratoga turf, General Jumbo ran a big second behind favored Revved Up, confirming Motion's belief that the British-bred horse would run well at a long distance over his preferred surface.

With nary a raindrop in sight for weeks, the asymmetrical Kentucky Downs course will be about as firm as possible, which means it could take a lot to beat General Jumbo in the Grade 3 KC Turf at 1 1/2 miles. Eight older horses, including speed types such as Starspangled Gator and Fri Guy, should make for an honestly run race, if not necessarily the best in the history of a race that has been won by such horses as Down the Aisle, Chorwon, and Silverfoot.

Motion, who already has hopes for the Breeders' Cup Turf with the Turf's 2004 winner, Better Talk Now, said he harbors no such illusions for General Jumbo, a winner of three races and just over $150,000.

"We're just thinking about this race," said Motion.

Assistant Dave Rock is deputized Saturday while Motion remains back East to watch via simulcast. Jeremy Rose has the mount.

Golden Strategy, shipping from Florida for Marty Wolfson, looks like one of the main challengers, especially if he can duplicate his off-the-turf triumph at Calder in his last start. Jose Valdivia Jr. will be in from California for the mount.

Other contenders include Lord Carmen, a steady shipper from Chicago, and Starspangled Gator, assuming he is not unduly pressured by the other obvious speed, Fri Guy.

This is the 11th straight year that Kentucky Downs has hosted the Kentucky Cup turf series. The KC Turf has always been the marquee event, and of the three original supporting events - the Mile, Turf Dash, and Ladies Turf - the Turf Dash and Ladies Turf still exist and will be conducted on the Saturday undercard as races 9 and 11, respectively. The KC Turf is the 14th of 16 races on a blended card that includes six races from Kentucky Downs and 10 from Turfway Park.