05/19/2006 12:00AM

'Joysey Jeff' gets back on the grass


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Even in February, when the improving 3-year-old New Joysey Jeff looked like a Kentucky Derby prospect, trainer Mark Glatt suspected the colt's future would be on grass.

But after New Joysey Jeff won a turf sprint first time out, Glatt switched him to dirt. Can you blame him? Everyone gets Derby fever.

"We wanted to test how far we could go; his Beyer Speed Figures were climbing pretty rapidly," Glatt said.

New Joysey Jeff earned a 77 Beyer in his debut, and improved in two subsequent starts on dirt. He earned an 88 finishing third in the Grade 2 San Vicente, and a 92 running second in an allowance route. And then, "We kind of hit a plateau," Glatt said.

was unplaced in successive dirt stakes, so his campaign resumes Sunday where it started - on grass. The Grade 3 Will Rogers Stakes at Hollywood Park, for 3-year-olds at a mile on turf, attracted seven starters and begins a transition for the division. After the Grade 3 Affirmed Handicap and Grade 2 Swaps on dirt, the summer focus for 3-year-olds in Southern California is mostly grass.

New Joysey Jeff's rivals Sunday include Corazondelcampeon, sharp winner of a turf sprint last out; Niagara Causeway, returning to turf after being unplaced in two dirt stakes; La Puente winner ; the improving Corey County; Silver Crest, runner-up after a premature move in his U.S. debut; and European comebacker Obrigado.

was also entered in the Grade 2 Laz Barerra Memorial Stakes, a dirt sprint, on Saturday, but he will run Sunday in the Will Rogers, according to owner Scott Merrell. Corazondelcampeon, 3 for 7 sprinting, switched to grass April 28 in the Harry Henson and drew off by nearly three lengths. If he runs in the Will Rogers, he is likely to control the pace.

As for New Joysey Jeff, Glatt expects him to race closer to the pace Sunday. The colt tipped his readiness May 11 working in company with the good older horse We All Love Aleyna. New Joysey Jeff hooked him at the six-furlong pole; they finished together. New Joysey Jeff was timed in a sharp 1:11.20 and blew out three furlongs Thursday.

Corey County has raced four times, and won his last two for Neil Drysdale. Each start has been better than the one before, and his allowance win April 26 was flattered when third-place finisher The Five J's came back to win Wednesday.