09/02/2002 12:00AM

Grass racing curtailed to save turf


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - An unusually dry summer has taken its toll on the turf course at Woodbine, and the track's management, prompted by complaints from jockeys, will be giving the surface an unscheduled break this week.

The development comes at a particularly inopportune time with the $1 million Atto Mile, the Grade 1 turf race which is one of the showpieces of the meeting, coming up Sunday.

John Whitson, vice president of Thoroughbred racing for the Woodbine Entertainment Group, which owns the track, said that the jockeys had contacted Ron Aspden, the track superintendent, as well as the stewards, regarding their concern about the turf course on Sunday.

"It's been so dry that the horses are cutting into it pretty good," Whitson said, "so we just decided to give it a little break."

While Monday's turf races were to proceed as scheduled, the two turf races carded for Wednesday were transferred to the main track at scratch time Monday. Scratches will not be announced until race day.

Thursday is a dark day, and there will be no turf racing Friday. The Natalma Stakes, a one-mile race for 2-year-old fillies, is the only grass race scheduled for Saturday. "It will probably be run in two divisions, by the sound of things," said Whitson.

In addition to the Grade 1 Atto Mile, the Grade 2 Canadian for fillies and mares and the Grade 2 Summer for 2-year-olds will go on the E.P. Taylor course Sunday.

Chris Evans, racing secretary and director of racing for Woodbine, points out that the seldom-used "Lane 1", the inside part of the course, will be used Atto Mile Day.

"We're in Lane 2 now," said Evans.

Forum Search prepared

With the move to the main track, Wednesday's feature is likely to be drastically reduced by scratches. But the switch might not have an effect on Forum Search, who can handle either surface.

Trainer Mark Casse put Forum Search on the grass for her last three starts. She was a close-up fifth in the June 1 Alywow Stakes, and subsequently led all the way to defeat older rivals in a $62,500 optional claimer. She was third most recently, in a race at this $80,000 class and distance.

* The pick six, which had been available this year on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays only, will be offered daily beginning Wednesday.

- additional reporting by Ron Gierkink