12/11/2003 12:00AM

Light field awaits Sonic West

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FLORENCE, Ky. - Trainer Tom Van Berg did not want to place Sonic West in a demanding race following an eighth-place finish in the Grade 2 Clark Handicap Nov. 28. So he decided to take an enter-and-look approach to Saturday's $50,000 Prairie Bayou Stakes at Turfway Park.

He should like what he sees. With the exception of stakes winner Ask the Lord, most of the entrants in the 1 1/8-mile Prairie Bayou are allowance horses, struggling stakes runners, or turf horses racing on dirt. That could put Sonic West in the starting gate.

"After the Clark, we talked about giving him a break and pointing for the March 14 Razorback Handicap at Oaklawn Park," said Van Berg. "We thought we'd see what's in [the Prairie Bayou]. If there are not too many salty ones for a $50,000 stake, we might go ahead and run."

An entry-level allowance horse a little more than six months ago, Sonic West has quickly become a mid-level stakes horse for his owners, the Stone Spire partnership. He followed a dominant allowance win with a victory in the $75,000 Governor's Handicap in August at Ellis Park, and he later won a pair of stakes at Mountaineer Park.

Sonic West's eighth-place finish in the Clark was deceptively good. He fell 17 lengths off the pace, farther behind than he typically races, and rallied wide in the slop to lose by 6 1/2 lengths to Evening Attire and Quest. He earned a 98 Beyer Speed Figure in the Clark, the fifth straight race in which he has earned a Beyer of 96 or greater.

If he runs in the Prairie Bayou, he will have a change of rider. Rafael Bejarano, Sonic West's regular jockey since August and Turfway Park's leading jockey, committed to riding Ask the Lord in the Prairie Bayou a couple of weeks ago, when plans called for Sonic West to take a break, Van Berg said.

Willie Martinez, who rode Sonic West to an allowance victory at Ellis Park in August, has been named to ride.

Ask the Lord, winner of the 1 1/8-mile Cigar Stakes at Arlington in August, will be the likely second choice in the wagering if Sonic West starts. He comes off a pair of optional claiming victories, including one for his new trainer, Bernie Flint, who claimed him for $62,500 on Oct. 26.

The remainder of the field consists of Foster's Landing, Doc D, Play It Out, Grey Beard, Wild Lies, Woostershear, Brent's Victory, Brian's Echo, and Ide Be Spencers. Wild Lies is also entered in a starter allowance at Mountaineer on Sunday.