10/14/2009 12:00AM

Lemon Punch fine on turf or dirt

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ELMONT, N.Y. - Tom Bush had tried to run Lemon Punch in a first-level New York-bred allowance race going a mile on dirt, but the race did not go. He may have found something even better.

Bush has Lemon Punch entered in a first-level New York-bred race going a mile on turf on Friday at Belmont Park, but the forecast is such that there is an extremely good chance the race will be washed off the turf and run on the main track. While a contender on turf, Lemon Punch would appear to be even tougher on dirt.

"The race is certainly softer on dirt,'' Bush said. "Then again, I never want to run on a bad track.''

Lemon Punch comes off a nose loss in a one-mile statebred allowance on dirt on Sept. 25. She had the lead in midstretch, but was outfinished by Banker's Buy, while finishing 6 1/2 lengths clear of the field.

"I have always liked this filly but have considered her a little bit of an underachiever,'' Bush said. "She's put quite a bit of weight on, and has been maturing the last few months and I have gotten high again on this filly. She looks like she'll run on any surface and she keeps taking little steps forward. I did like her last race and I think we've got her on the right track.''

Lemon Punch is drawn in post 12, but is likely to move in several positions if there are scratches due to a surface change. Bush has entered Marula in the race, but would only run her on the turf.

Vicarious finished 6 1/2 lengths behind Lemon Punch in that Sept. 25 race and is entered here for the main track only for Allen Jerkens. Vicarious has finished in the money in her last two starts on dirt at this level after winning a $25,000 claiming race going 1 1/16 miles in the slop here for horses that had never won two career races. This will be her third start in 21 days with a bullet work mixed in.

If the race remains on turf, Wild Awake looks like a major contender coming off a troubled third going 1 1/16 miles in this same condition last out. Trainer Barclay Tagg removes the blinkers from the 3-year-old filly's equipment.

There are five New York-bred races on the nine-race program, including a wide-open second-level optional claimer on turf that begins the day and a first-level allowance for 2-year-old fillies on dirt led by Cuff Me, a debut winner by 6 1/4 lengths in the slop here in June.