08/09/2007 12:00AM

Mach Ride's camp rooting for rain


MIAMI - There's little anyone can do about the weather, but it's easy to predict who is rooting for rain and who is hoping for clear skies on Saturday when it comes to Calder's $250,000 Turf Sprint Championship Handicap and its filly-mare counterpart, the $250,000 Distaff Turf Sprint Championship Handicap.

Trainer Steve Standridge would love to see enough precipitation to move the Turf Sprint Championship to the main course for his nationally ranked speedster, Mach Ride, while his counterparts Morris Nicks and Ronny Werner are praying for dry weather so their turf-sprint specialists Smitty's Sunshine and Unbridled Sidney can compete on the grass as scheduled in the Distaff Turf Sprint.

Standridge is hoping to use the Turf Sprint Championship as a prep for Mach Ride's next major objective, the Grade 1 Vosburgh at Belmont Park on Oct. 6. Mach Ride is ranked third among sprinters in Daily Racing Form's Watchmaker Watch following his decisive victory here last month in the Grade 2 Smile Sprint Handicap.

Mach Ride has made 13 starts but has never raced on turf. He worked over the turf for the first time on Monday, going three furlongs in a leisurely 37 seconds.

"He moved over it real nice, but I thought he'd go faster," said Standridge, who breezed Mach Ride without the blinkers he wore in his last two easy victories. "Right now I'm undecided whether he'll run if the race stays on the turf. The weather forecasters are talking about a 70 percent chance of rain for Saturday, so at the moment we're just playing it by ear."

If the Turf Sprint Championship goes as scheduled on the grass, Heros Reward and Ecclesiastic may be the ones to beat.

Heros Reward had a four-race win streak snapped in his last start when he finished second, beaten a half-length by Smart Enough, in Woodbine's Grade 3 Highlander Stakes. Each of his four previous wins came on turf.

Ecclesiastic was purchased privately by the Farnsworth Stables LLC and turned over to trainer Marty Wolfson following his 2 3/4-length victory in Belmont's Grade 3 Jaipur Stakes on turf on May 27.

"I love this horse," said Wolfson. "Especially his versatility. He can sprint or go long, run on dirt and turf, go to the front or come from behind, and I think this race should fit him perfectly."

Lord Robyn and Nacascolo are among the other major players on turf.

D'artagnans'spirit, who won the Turf Sprint Handicap when that race came off the grass last month, is another looking for a change of surface, as is How's Your Halo, a recent 7 1/2-length allowance winner over the main track.

Smitty's Sunshine brings a six-race win streak back to south Florida for the Distaff Turf Sprint Championship, a skein that includes a victory over a sloppy main track in the Distaff Turf Sprint Handicap here five weeks ago. But despite that tally, trainer Morris Nicks said he is not likely to run Smitty's Sunshine if the race comes off the grass again Saturday.

"She's didn't like that track the last time even though she won, and I don't think I'll run her on dirt again," said Nicks.

Smitty's Sunshine, who is at her best on the lead, figures to have her hands full with defending champion Unbridled Sidney, another speedball who will break to her immediate outside.

"My filly has been down on the inside before and it doesn't seem to bother her," said Nicks. "In fact, I think it builds her heart up when somebody pushes her. She's a real fighter."

Unbridled Sidney dueled with Smitty's Sunshine into the stretch before finishing a tiring fifth in the slop in their previous encounter, and is also subject not to start if the race is taken off the grass. The 6-year-old led throughout to capture the 2006 Distaff Turf Championship by 3 1/2 widening lengths.

Course record holder Whenthe-doveflies makes her first start since finishing third behind Unbridled Sidney in this event a year ago. Ruby's Grand Slam returns to the grass off a pair of wet-track victories at Louisiana Downs.