09/25/2008 12:00AM

Joe Hirsch will be a test of stamina

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ELMONT, N.Y. - With a forecast for buckets of rain leading up to Saturday's $600,000 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational, the 1 1/2-mile race figures to develop into a supreme test of stamina over a waterlogged Widener course.

Nine older males with combined earnings of over $5.3 million entered the 32nd running of the Grade 1 Turf Classic, including Grade 1 winners Dancing Forever, Grand Couturier, and Presious Passion. It also attracted Proudinsky, who was second by a neck to Big Brown in the Monmouth Stakes two weeks ago. Also entered were Elusive Fort, Jade's Revenge, Interpatation, Strike a Deal, and Summer Patriot. All starters carry 126 pounds.

Grand Couturier is fresh off a win in the Sword Dancer for the second straight year, and has trained well during the ensuing six weeks for Bobby Ribaudo, who calmly awaited the storm at entry time.

"Naturally the weather's got us concerned, but we're all going to be in the same boat," he said. "If they're running, we're running. Soft turf doesn't bother us. He's doing good - that's the main thing. Physically, he's doing a little better this year, so we can train him with a little more confidence."

Proudinsky has been at his best up to 1 1/8 miles, but likes rain-softened turf, with his most important win coming in the Grade 2 Mervin Muniz on yielding ground at Fair Grounds.

"I think he ran good at Monmouth; he can run a little better," said trainer Bobby Frankel, who won back-to-back Turf Classics in 2001-02 with Timboroa and Denon.

Frankel said Proudinsky could scratch Saturday and run next Saturday in the Shadwell Mile at Keeneland.

"We'll see how the weather is," he said.

Dancing Forever was in career-best form earlier this year for Shug McGaughey, winning the Elkhorn and the Manhattan. He will try to rebound from a fifth-place finish in the Sword Dancer as the 3-2 favorite.

Strike a Deal has been snake-bit in graded stakes, with four runner-up finishes that include a neck loss to Presious Passion in the 1 3/8-mile United Nations.

"I'd like to win one - I keep waiting," said trainer Alan Goldberg. "He's run all right on a couple of soft courses, so I don't think it's going to hurt him. He was coming at the end of 1 3/8 miles, and he's run well at Belmont."