09/20/2006 11:00PM

If turf is wet, upgrade these horses

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - There is rain headed to Kentucky on Saturday, not that it matters to horseplayers betting on the races from Turfway Park. The Polytrack surface there handles water exceptionally well, meaning the track will play much as it does on a typical dry day.

But 3 1/2 hours away at Kentucky Downs in Franklin, Ky. - where the Kentucky Cup Turf races will be contested on Saturday - the weather could influence which horses win the races. If rain hits the area on Friday and Saturday, as weather forecasters expect, the European-style course there will likely be run over ground ranging anywhere from good to soft.

If so, horseplayers might have a chance to cash on some runners that move up on wet going. Here is a look at which horses might benefit from the conditions in the six races at Kentucky Downs, which will be interspersed with the races from Turfway Park.

Kentucky Cup Turf

Silverfoot is the class of the race and proven over the Kentucky Downs surface, having won this race by 6 3/4 lengths last year over Rochester, the 2002 and 2003 KC Turf winner. Silverfoot is also established racing over wet ground, making him a deserving favorite.

That noted, Rochester should give him more of a race this year if the ground is wet. Although he ran a flat fourth over soft ground in the Capital City Handicap at Penn National in his last start, his overall form on wet turf courses is very good. He finished a nose behind Silverfoot when second in the 2004 Louisville Handicap over a yielding course at Churchill Downs, and in the best performance of his career, he earned a 109 Beyer Speed Figure for winning the KC Turf in 2002 over a Kentucky Downs course labeled good.

Such a powerful win over conditions similar to those he is likely to encounter Saturday leads me to believe that 10-year-old Rochester could be set to rebound from a 2006 campaign that has seen him go unplaced in three starts. I will take him at a price to upset Silverfoot.

Kentucky Cup Ladies Turf

Trainer Bill Mott is well represented by two wet turf-loving mares in this mile race with Thetactics Ofdance and Almost Innocent. Almost Innocent comes off a victory over a soft course at Arlington on Aug. 4, while Thetactics Ofdance was most recently third behind Melhor Ainda in the Capades Stakes over a good course at Belmont on July 14.

I favor Thetactics Ofdance given the company she has kept and the fact that she also shows a victory over a yielding course in her past performances. Almost Innocent is still searching for her first stakes placing, something she might pick up in the Ladies.

Damp conditions would hurt the chances of Pretty Jane, who has largely struggled over wet going.

Kentucky Cup Turf Dash

Atticus Kristy, second in this race last year, is in position to win. Never worse than fourth in eight starts this year, he comes off a runner-up finish to Nicole's Dream in the $250,000 Turf Sprint Championship at Calder on Aug. 5.

All of his races this year have come on firm ground, but he is adept racing over wet turf. Last year he won the Cherokee Run Handicap at Churchill Downs over yielding ground, and was also third in the Grade 2 Nearctic Handicap at Woodbine over similar footing.

Actual, making his first start in stakes company, is the biggest threat to Atticus Kristy. He has won 4 of 5 turf sprints, including a five-furlong race over a "good" course at Churchill Downs on May 18.

A stalker with a strong closing punch, he appears well suited to the six-furlong distance of the Kentucky Cup Turf Dash - which is a bit longer than most sprint grass races.

Yaqthan

This race is the widest open on the card, and with so few having top wet-course form, I'm going to take a shot with Chief Export, a horse trying turf for the first time.

An underachiever during the early part of his career, he really began to develop during the spring months at Churchill Downs, winning three races there and running a close second in one other start.

A few starts back, in winning a first-level allowance at Churchill Downs on May 24, he defeated Casino Evil and Smokeyjonessutton - two 3-year-olds that would go on to perform nicely in stakes. Casino Evil won the Round Table Stakes at Arlington this summer, and Smokeyjonessutton ran a close second behind Lawyer Ron in the $250,000 St. Louis Derby.

Whether he can transfer his dirt form to a wet turf course remains to be seen, but he is related to three horses that have won on grass. He may prove capable of upsetting likely favorite Solo Cat.

Race 5: First-level allowance

Arvilla Priscilla, who ran one of her best races when sprinting on turf at Gulfstream in March, should relish the opportunity to race six furlongs on grass, particularly if the ground is wet, as expected. A filly who usually runs Beyers on turf in the mid 70's, she has earned figures of 83, 84, and 82 in three starts on wet turf.

Race 16: Maiden special weight

Coming to Kentucky Downs off a runner-up finish over yielding turf at Delaware, Spring Honour looks ready to win his first race. He benefits from the fact that one of his primary rivals, Red Letter Day, ran eighth of nine in his only attempt over wet ground at Arlington on Aug. 20.