02/23/2009 12:00AM

McPeek filly figures tough on the turf


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Trainer Ken McPeek said he's had little luck getting a race to fill on dirt for Striking Dancer's 3-year-old debut. That also could be bad luck for the 11 fillies scheduled to face the stakes-placed Striking Distance over her favorite surface, turf, in Wednesday's $42,000 allowance feature at Gulfstream Park.

Striking Distance made all four starts at 2 on either turf or artificial surfaces. Her greatest success came on grass - she won her maiden on turf by nearly six lengths on Nov. 1, before returning four weeks later to conclude her campaign finishing second in Churchill Downs' one-mile Caressing Handicap.

"I'd like to run her here in the Bonnie Miss later in the meet, so I was hoping to start her off on dirt to see how she handled it," McPeek said. "But I haven't been able to get a race to go. She's doing real well right now, and this turf course is so fast I didn't need to do much with her to have her ready the first time back. I looked the field over and I think everybody else is in trouble."

Kent Desormeaux, McPeek's go-to rider here this winter, will replace Striking Dancer's regular pilot, Robby Albarado, on Wednesday.

Striking Distance will not lack for competition in her 3-year-old debut against a field that includes promising turf prospects such as Eden's Storm, Bluegrass Princess, and Seminole Lass.

Eden's Storm exploded to a well-graded 8 1/4-length maiden win in her juvenile finale at Calder. A half-sister to Group 1 winner David Junior by Stormy Atlantic, Eden's Storm shows only a limited work tab in preparation for her return, although trainer Christophe Clement always seems to have his horses fit and ready to roll off a layoff.

Bluegrass Princess, like Striking Distance, is already stakes-placed on grass, having finished third in an overnight stakes making her turf debut at Belmont in October. She, too, has been idle since late November, but shows five works on her resume, including a bullet half-mile in 50 seconds at Palm Meadows on Feb. 2.

Seminole Lass was no match for Striking Distance in the Caressing but bounced back to win a $50,000 claiming race over the local course on Jan. 18. She is one of four members of this field to have already registered a victory here this winter, along with It's My Day, Sandi's Ready, and Jehan.