05/16/2002 11:00PM

Key Lory a grass horse after all


OCEANPORT, N.J. - When Key Lory was entered in the Grade 3 Oceanport Handicap at Monmouth Park last Aug. 5, trainer Dennis Manning was optimistic that he would run well, despite having never raced on the grass before. Key Lory, then 7, had trained nicely over the turf, but there was no need to run him on it because of previous success in stakes on the dirt.

Key Lory was entered to assure a quick pace for his stablemate Ready to Roll, who was accomplished on turf. But when Key Lory led every step of the way to defeat heavy favorite North East Bound - runner-up in the 2000 Breeders' Cup Mile - Manning found himself with a bona fide turf horse.

The victory, at 13-1, surprised Manning, and Key Lory proved the Oceanport victory was no fluke, winning $100,000 stakes on turf at Delaware and Pimlico.

Unbeaten in three starts on grass, Key Lory makes his first start of the year next Sunday in the Grade 3 Red Bank Handicap at one mile on the turf here, Manning said Friday. Key Lory worked six furlongs in 1:14.60 from the gate on Friday.

"It was just a maintenance work," said Manning, who trains Key Lory for Mack Fehsenfeld. "He'll probably gallop a few times leading up to the race."

After his win in the Oceanport, Key Lory took the Sussex Handicap on Sept. 1 at Delaware by 1 1/2 lengths. But it was his victory in the Da Hoss Stakes at Pimlico four weeks later that truly signaled to Manning his tremendous turf ability. Key Lory, spotting weight to most of the horses in the field, was clear every step of the way and won by 2 3/4 lengths.

"He showed us two colors at Pimlico," Manning said. "He was spotting the horses all that weight and still won wire to wire. He really showed me that he was a very good turf horse."

In his workout Friday, over a track that played slow, Key Lory broke from about the head of the stretch and worked to the backstretch. He ducked his head leaving the gate, but quickly made up ground on the three horses in his group and started picking up horses by the clubhouse turn. He was in front by the time he hit the backstretch. According to Manning, he set fractions of 47.60 for a half-mile and 1:03 for five-eighths. Jockey Carlos Cruz was aboard for the workout.

Harry Vega, who rode Key Lory in his two stakes wins after the Oceanport, will come up from Delaware Park for the Red Bank.

Two more good ones

Manning also reported that two other stakes horses in his barn - Just Le Facts and Estio - would run soon.

Just Le Facts was one of the most impressive 2-year-olds here last summer, winning his maiden with an 86 Beyer Speed Figure. The colt, a $17,000 Keeneland yearling purchase by Fehsenfeld, won an allowance at The Meadowlands before finishing second in the Storm Cat Stakes there and in the Hoosier Juvenile at Hoosier Park.

Manning said that Just Le Facts probably ran in the Storm Cat with a fever, because he came out of the race with a 102-degree temperature. Manning said that the colt wasn't really ready for the Hoosier Juvenile, but it was one of the last juvenile stakes of the season and they decided to run him. He finished second to Cashel Castle, who this year has won the Lafayette Stakes at Keeneland and finished second in the Derby Trial at Churchill.

Just Le Facts worked three furlongs in 36 seconds on Tuesday, but he was found to have mucus in his throat after being scoped. Manning said that he is being given antibiotics and will likely run in an allowance race soon.

"We're expecting big things from him," Manning said.

The Chilean-bred Estio will make his first start for Manning in the $50,000 Frisk Me Now Stakes next Sunday. Estio was previously trained by Steve Jordan in Delaware, and before that by Beau Greely in California. Under Greely, Estio was a graded-stakes runner. Estio worked four furlongs over the Monmouth strip in 49.20 seconds one week ago.

The Frisk Me Now is shaping up to be a quality race, with accomplished handicap horses such as the Allen Iwinski-trained Jarf and the Linda Rice-trained Talk's Cheap to face Estio.

Future bright for Winning Talk

The track on Friday morning was slow, but that didn't stop 3-year-old Winning Talk from firing a quick 59.60-second five-furlong workout out of the gate for trainer John Forbes. Winning Talk, with jockey Rachel Lavoy up, galloped out six furlongs in 1:13.

"He's doing really well right now," Forbes said. "With the way he worked out, he should be back to the races soon."

Winning Talk, a $27,000 yearling purchase owned by Peter Shannon, won his maiden here last summer, recording an 81 Beyer Speed Figure. He went on to run third in the $50,000 Comet Stakes at The Meadowlands, but then ran poorly in his next two races - one at The Meadowlands and one at Gulfstream Park. Forbes said that the colt came down with a 104-degree temperature after the Comet, and that he was not given enough time before his next races. Winning Talk has been away from the races since January.

"I wasn't patient enough with him," Forbes said. "I should've turned him out after his second race. But he's training well now and is ready for a good 3-year-old season."

Winning Talk, a May foal, is a son of Victory Speech by Grade 1 winner Lady Shirl, breeding that Forbes believes will make Winning Talk a route horse.

o The Forbes-trained Gerosa, a 5-year-old, also breezed here Friday, going a "slow mile in 1:48," Forbes said. Gerosa, who is undefeated in three career starts at ages 3 and 4, has been plagued by injuries. Gerosa last raced in June.

o The $50,000 Gilded Time Stakes for 3-year-olds at six furlongs, to be run Sunday, did not fill and was canceled.