08/31/2004 11:00PM

As hurricane looms, Umphrey can only wait


MIAMI - Entries for Saturday's second annual Juvenile Showcase program closed Monday, giving racing secretary Bob Umphrey five days to beam over a program that drew nearly 11 starters per race and offers over $600,000 in purses. Umphrey will also have the same five days to fret over the prospect of Hurricane Frances blowing away the entire card.

Hurricane Frances's path remained unclear Wednesday, although at the storm's present speed it was expected to be near south Florida by Saturday. Even if the local area is spared the brunt of the storm, though, heavy rains would still likely be the best-case scenario.

"You can't control the weather. I've quit trying to do that," said Umphrey. "We'll play things by ear for now since it's hard to predict what the storm might do over the next 48 to 72 hours. By Friday we should be in a position to have a much better idea where we're at regarding Saturday's program."

Saturday's unique Juvenile Showcase program consists entirely of 2-year-old races. It also includes six stakes, including the $125,000 Susan's Girl and Affirmed divisions of the Florida Stallion Stakes.

"Fortunately there is enough time between our next group of 2-year-old stakes, on Oct. 2, and then the finale of the Stallion Stakes, on Oct. 23, that it shouldn't be too much of a problem for the horsemen if weather should necessitate rescheduling Saturday's major stakes," said Umphrey.

Each of the first nine races Saturday boasts a full field. Umphrey has scheduled the summer's first 2-year-old races on the grass, one a maiden event going 1 1/16 miles and a pair of five-furlong stakes, one for each sex. But the prospect of using the turf course seemed bleak at mid-week.

"We saved up pretty good for this card, and the horsemen really supported the program," said Umphrey. "If you look back at last year's Juvenile Showcase you'll see a lot of very nice horses came out of that card, and I expect the same thing to happen again this time around."

Umphrey said he was a bit disappointed in the turnout for the two big races. Only seven fillies were entered for the Susan's Girl and eight colts and geldings entered for the Affirmed, with no shippers for either race.

"Small fields in 2-year-old stakes seem to be the theme around the country this year and the trend over the past couple of seasons," said Umphrey. "I really don't know how to explain it, but that seems to be the 2-year-old picture in general right now. And when you've got 2-year-old stakes at your home track offering $200,000 purses for four- and five-horse fields, it doesn't make much sense for anybody to ship down here for only $125,000."

Both B. B. Best and Aclassysassylassy, the winners of the opening legs of the Stallion Stakes three weeks ago, will be back Saturday, weather permitting. B. B. Best beat his stablemate Favre by three lengths to win the six-furlong Dr. Fager, and Aclassysassylassy was a 3 1/4-length winner of the six-furlong Desert Vixen. Both the Affirmed and Susan's Girl will be decided at seven furlongs.

Surface switch likely for Miami Mile

Hurricane Frances is also likely to play havoc with Monday's $150,000 Miami Mile Breeders' Cup Handicap, a race that appears destined to wind up on the main track for the second consecutive year.

Unbridels King has been assigned high weight of 118 pounds for the grass, one more than French Charmer, although both would be considered outsiders and get in under 110 pounds if the Miami Mile is decided on the dirt. Because of the volatile nature of the weather here during the summer, Umphrey weights all his grass stakes for both turf and dirt.

A surface switch for the Miami Mile would favor Super Frolic, Twilight Road, Kristine's King, and defending champion Tour of the Cat. Super Frolic would go off the starting highweight at 120 pounds if the race is switched to the dirt.