10/06/2004 11:00PM

Key contenders fine, rain or shine

Jim Linscott
Mr. Livingston wins the Carterista at Calder in May. Trouble is, he hasn't run since a clunker on July 25.

MIAMI - Most trainers with key contenders in turf stakes shudder at the hint of rain in the forecast and the chance a race might be taken off the turf. But you can bet neither David Fawkes nor Manny Azpurua will lose any sleep fretting about the weather in south Florida this weekend.

Fawkes will send out Twilight Road and Azpurua will saddle Gold Dollar in Saturday's $100,000 Flying Pidgeon Handicap at Calder, a 1 1/8-mile race scheduled for turf. The two can remain calm, rain or shine, since both their horses are even better on dirt than grass. In fact, Twilight Road and Gold Dollar also proved they could handle a yielding turf course when they finished first and second in the Grade 3 Miami Mile Breeders' Cup Handicap here on Sept. 11.

Twilight Road had never won a turf race before rallying to a half-length victory in the Miami Mile. The win was the second graded-stakes triumph this meet for the 7-year-old Twilight Road, who also easily won the Grade 3 Memorial Day Handicap.

"I think he prefers dirt to turf," said Fawkes, who trains Twilight Road for the Donamire Farm.

Gold Dollar has never won on grass but his performance in the Miami Mile, rallying from the rear of the pack to fall only a half-length short of catching Twilight Road, was encouraging to Azpurua. The performance was even more impressive considering Gold Dollar had run only a week earlier in the Grade 1 Forego Handicap at Saratoga and arrived back at Calder just 48 hours before the race.

Gold Dollar has gotten all six of his career victories on dirt, including the Groomstick and Fappie's Notebook handicaps here earlier in the session.

The performances by Twilight Road and Gold Dollar in the Miami Mile look even stronger now that also-rans Wire Bound and Tour of the Cat returned two weeks later and won stakes races. Unbridels King also exits the key-race Miami Mile, in which he finished eighth as the 3-1 favorite.

Unbridels King proved his mettle over both this course and distance when rallying to a one-length victory in the 1 1/8-mile Mecke Handicap on July 4. In the Miami Mile, he was hung wide throughout and might not have relished the soft turf.

Mr. Livingston is the major question mark on Saturday, having been idle since finishing 10th when overmatched in Del Mar's Grade 1 Eddie Read Handicap on July 25. The 7-year-old Mr. Livingston was an easy winner of the Carterista Handicap in his last local appearance, during the spring.