06/28/2007 11:00PM

Kona Blend's value – even at 7-5


Considering that Kona Blend has only raced once in the past 14 months and was sent off at 17-1 when he made his turf debut in a first-level allowance a month ago, 7-5 seems like an extremely short price to take on the 4-year-old gelding this time.

But given the six Virginia-bred and Virginia-sired opponents Kona Blend faces in Sunday's $60,000 Daniel Van Clief Stakes at 1 1/16 miles over Colonial Downs's inner turf course, the track's morning-line price may well reflect his chances of winning.

Three of his rivals have either never raced or never won on the grass. Two others, 20-1 outsiders Flying Peace and Jenkin Jones, haven't finished first in a turf race since July 2005, Flying Peace in a maiden claiming race and Jenkin Jones against straight maidens.

The remaining challenger to Kona Blend, the 9-5 second choice Love Conquers, has won $72,470 on turf and was third in this race last year. But he hasn't run since October and his new trainer, Daniel Smithwick, is 0 for 5 with turf runners returning from layoffs of 180 days or longer over the past two years.

In comparison, Kona Blend's wire-to-wire win at Monmouth Park, which earned an 86 Beyer Speed Figure, looks outstanding. Catch My Smoke, who ran second to Kona Blend that day, returned to win an allowance on turf last week with an 83 Beyer.

In addition, Kona Blend is trained by the excellent turf trainer Graham Motion, who is off to a 4-for-12 start at the Colonial meet.

It's difficult to make much of a case for any of the others. The one horse trying something new who could surprise is In the Nick, who makes his first start off the claim for trainer Phil Schoenthal.

In the Nick has never run on turf and sports an extremely low 195 Tomlinson figure for the surface. But he did post an 88 Beyer two starts ago winning a third-level allowance going two turns at Charles Town and should show speed stretching out.- Joe DeVivo