10/30/2001 1:00AM

Hong Kong Turf Sprint next for Morluc


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Morluc, the Churchill Downs-based horse who quietly has become a world-class turf sprinter, will run next in the $1 million Hong Kong Turf Sprint on Dec. 16, trainer Randy Morse said Tuesday.

Morluc finished second, beaten a head, in the same race last year. After an impressive victory in the Oct. 5 Nureyev Stakes at Keeneland, Morluc was extended a preferred invitation to the Hong Kong race late last week.

Morse initially had planned to race Morluc in the $100,000 Morvich Handicap on Monday at Santa Anita, but with invitation in hand, he is bypassing that option. "I figure if we're in at Hong Kong for $1 million, there's no sense in going out [to Santa Anita]," he said.

Without a Breeders' Cup event for turf sprinters, horses like Morluc seldom attract much notice. Morluc, a 5-year-old horse by Housebuster, owned by Mike Cloonan, has earned more than $600,000 and won nine races, eight of them in turf sprints. Besides winning the Nureyev twice, he also has won the Kentucky Cup Turf Dash and the Aegon Turf.

Morse said he plans to send Morluc to Hong Kong at the end of November. "It's about a 21-hour trip," he said. "I'll catch up with him soon after that. You just walk them three or four days after you get there because of how hard the trip is."

Robby Albarado is scheduled to ride Morluc in the about five-furlong race. Last year, Shane Sellers rode the horse to his narrow defeat to Falvelon in a field of 14.

Woods back in the saddle

Jockey Charlie Woods Jr. is back in action after his third lengthy layoff in a 3 1/2-year period. Woods, who was sidelined July 29 after a spill at Ellis Park, had three mounts on Sunday's opening-day card.

Woods broke a shoulder and ribs on his right side in the spill, causing him to be laid up until the middle of last month. "I started getting on horses and felt great," said Woods, 50.

Woods was out for nearly two years from injuries and subsequent complications from a July 1998 training accident. He also was sidelined last winter because of an injured knee.

* The best race of the Churchill fall meet could very well be the Falls City Handicap on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 22. That's because the top two finishers in the Breeders' Cup Distaff, Unbridled Elaine and Spain, both could wheel back in the 1 1/8-mile race, as well as Spinster Stakes winner Miss Linda. Trainer Dallas Stewart on Tuesday called Unbridled Elaine "50-50" for the Falls City.

* Guided Tour, a respectable fifth in the BC Classic, could run next in the richest race of the meet, the $400,000 Clark Handicap on Nov. 23, trainer Niall O'Callaghan said Tuesday. Guided Tour has been purchased by Buckram Oak Farm, whose owners plan to eventually send the gelding to Saudi Arabia to race.

* Bet on Sunshine, the 9-year-old who trailed most of the Breeders' Cup Sprint before finishing 13th of 14, came out of the race fine, said trainer Paul McGee. "He went in good and came out good," said McGee. "The horse just spun his wheels the whole way."

* Trainer Cam Gambolati, who won the 1985 Kentucky Derby with Spend a Buck, has several horses stabled here. Gambolati normally is based at Calder. "I'll be back and forth," said Gambolati, who trains a handful of horses for University of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino. "Coach wanted me to run a couple up here, so here I am."

* Illusioned, the impressive winner of the Ack Ack Handicap on opening day, returned to trainer Bill Mott at Belmont on Tuesday. Illusioned likely will run next in the Grade 1 Cigar Mile at Aqueduct Nov. 24. "We only rented him for a little while," joked Mott's assistant, Ralph Nicks.

* Pat Day ranks first in virtually every category for jockeys at Churchill Downs. Now comes another first: Day is being honored with his very own bobblehead doll. The dolls will be given out to the first 10,000 paid admissions here Saturday. "I'm very flattered, to say the least," said Day.

* Dates for the 2002 Kentucky racing calendar were approved at a brief meeting of the Kentucky Racing Commission at Churchill Tuesday. The schedule reflects no changes from the traditional dates among Churchill, Keeneland, Turfway, Ellis, and Kentucky Downs.

Also, commission chairman Frank Shoop formally announced the creation of a medication review committee to work in conjunction with the National Thoroughbred Racing Association on medication issues. "We want to be proactive," said Shoop.