04/25/2007 12:00AM

Jazil makes turf debut in Elkhorn


LEXINGTON, Ky. - Sometimes when one door closes, another opens. Kiaran McLaughlin hopes that adage comes true Friday when Keeneland slams the doors on its 15-day spring meet with the $200,000 Elkhorn Stakes.

McLaughlin is looking for the Elkhorn to provide new horizons for Jazil, the 4-year-old colt who won the 2006 Belmont Stakes and has never raced on turf. The Grade 3 Elkhorn, run at 1 1/2 miles on turf, will determine which way McLaughlin can proceed for the balance of the year with the Shadwell Stable star.

"If they like the grass, you can run them every three weeks if you want," said McLaughlin. "That's how many big grass races there are across the country between 1 1/4 miles and 1 1/2 miles. On the dirt, though, there really aren't that many longer races. Obviously it would be to our benefit for the colt to show he likes the grass, at least to give us that many more options with him."

Jazil, by Seeking the Gold, has finished second in his two starts this year, both middle-distance dirt allowances. He comes from so far behind that McLaughlin believes 1 1/4 miles is the minimum distance to suit him. Jazil will be ridden by Fernando Jara when he breaks from post 12 in the Elkhorn.

Jazil will be meeting quite a few seasoned turf marathoners Friday, so it hardly would be surprising if he were defeated. Among the proven turf pros are Cloudy's Knight, Ramazutti, Ascertain, and another 4-year-old from the McLaughlin barn, Spider Power.

Cloudy's Knight came flying to be second in the Grade 2 Mervin Muniz Jr. Handicap at Fair Grounds last out, earning a 101 Beyer Speed Figure, and figures tough off a repeat. Ramazutti, trained by Todd Pletcher, specializes in just this kind of race. Ascertain was terrific in earning a 103 Beyer in a turf allowance on the second day of this meet. And while Spider Power hasn't been effective in his last three starts, he was able to win a small stakes at 1 1/2 miles on the Calder turf at the end of November.

Among the other legitimate considerations is Pellegrino, upset winner of the 2006 Elkhorn at 24-1 under Shaun Bridgmohan, who reunites with the 8-year-old horse on Friday.

The balance of the field is Bee Charmer, Drilling for Oil, Always First, Hard Deck, Transduction Gold, Last Answer, and the lone also-eligible, Fri Guy.

The Elkhorn goes as the ninth of 10 races on the closing-day card and will be part of Keeneland's late pick four, a 50-cent bet which on Fridays has a guaranteed pool of $100,000.