10/02/2006 11:00PM

Grass a sticking point in feature


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Thursday's Woodbine feature, a prep for the Grade 2 Nearctic Stakes on Oct. 22, is hard to fathom. The most accomplished runner in the six-furlong turf allowance, Are You Serious, is a dirt specialist, and the best grass runners in the lineup are winless on the turf this year.

Are You Serious should be among the favorites, even though his lone grass start resulted in a sixth-place finish in an optional claimer last fall. He defeated a quality field, which included future Grade 1 winner Bishop Court Hill, when he won his first stakes, the Dec. 10 Kennedy Road.

This year, Are You Serious has won 2 of 6 outings for earnings of $107,320. He benefited from an inside bias in upsetting the reigning Canadian champion sprinter, Judiths Wild Rush, in the Bold Venture Stakes over 7 1/2 furlongs on the inner dirt track. He was a flat fifth most recently in the six-furlong Kenora Stakes on the Polytrack.

Corey Fraser, Woodbine's hottest rider last weekend, will pilot Are You Serious for trainer Bob Tiller. That combination has won at a healthy 21 percent clip this year.

Langfleur, a speedy Langfuhr gelding, is 3 for 8 on the grass, but he has failed to hit the board in four starts since his capturing last year's allowance prep for the Nearctic.

Langfleur does his optimum running when he is able to get a breather on the front end, and he could shake loose on the lead here under 10-pound apprentice Catherine O'Brien.

The late-running My Lucky Strike fared okay in both of his August outings, earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 96 on each occasion. He finished a close second in a classified allowance, and was just 1 3/4 lengths back when he finished fifth in the seven-furlong Play the King Stakes, from which Becrux exited to take the Grade 1 Woodbine Mile.

My Lucky Strike, to be ridden by Jim McAleney, is winless in five starts at six furlongs on the grass, although he was beaten just three lengths when sixth in the 2005 Nearctic. Trainer Lorne Richards has been winning at a phenomenal 30 percent rate with 31- to 60-day comebackers, and is 6 for 24 at the meeting when using McAleney.

Gangster has been laid up since trailing in a five-horse field over a sloppy track in the July 22 Bold Venture. He ran the race of his life to finish in a dead heat for second with Bishop Court Hill in the 2005 Kennedy Road, but has a mediocre turf record.