11/29/2002 12:00AM

Meet our Great States Challenge reps


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - A decision on which race Continental Red will try in the Great States Challenge at Sam Houston Race Park in Houston on Saturday is contingent on the weather, trainer Ian Jory said on Friday.

One of the year's top California-breds, Continental Red is pre-entered for both the Turf and the Classic, which are run over 1 1/8 miles. But the threat of rain in Houston could force Jory and owners Sharon and Wes Fitzpatrick to try Continental Red in the Classic.

The Classic and Turf are two of the six races in the Great States Challenge, which matches statebreds from throughout the United States in $275,000 races.

Several leading states, including California, are guaranteed at least one starter in each race.

Entries will be taken on Wednesday, and Jory is hoping that rain does not wreak havoc with his plans.

"I think he's a better grass horse," Jory said. "But he doesn't like the softer grass. I'm waiting to see what the weather does. He likes a hard surface and the mud has a base on it."

The 6-year-old Continental Red has won 5 of 45 starts and $710,853.

Last spring, he won the Grade 2 San Luis Rey Handicap over 1 1/2 miles on turf at Santa Anita on March 16, but has lost his last six starts. The losing streak includes defeats by a head in both the Sunset Handicap on turf and the California Cup Classic on dirt at Santa Anita.

Continental Red would be a leading candidate in the Classic, but would not be favored in the Turf, which will include Forbidden Apple, the fourth-place finisher in the Breeders' Cup Mile at Arlington Park on Oct. 26.

In his last start on turf, Continental Red was a well-beaten third in the Kentucky Cup Handicap at Kentucky Downs, a surface that Jory insists the gelding did not like.

There is a possibility that two California-breds could start in the Great States Challenge Classic. Slippery When Bet, who was third in the California Cup Classic, is under consideration. Trainer John Sadler said the chances are "50-50" that Slippery When Bet will be shipped to Texas. He races for breeder Robert Moreno.

A former claimer, the 4-year-old Slippery When Bet ran the best race of his career in the California Cup Classic, his stakes debut.

"We turned him out at the end of his 3-year-old year," Sadler said. "He needed to grow up. He got a little stiff behind, but I told Mr. Moreno I really like this horse. It's tough in these economic times to go without but we did."

Slippery When Bet has two wins in six starts this year, the victories coming in a starter allowance race at Del Mar in July and an optional claimer at Del Mar in August. Slippery When Bet was not offered for a claiming price this year, but could have been claimed for $25,000 at Bay Meadows in October 2001.

The rest of the California team for the Great States Challenge is shaping up. Miss Nicolie is expected to start in the Juvenile Fillies, while Only the Best will represent the state in the Juvenile. Both juvenile races are over seven furlongs

Only the Best has two sprint stakes wins this fall. Miss Nicolie, a stakes winner at Del Mar, finished fourth in the California Cup Juvenile Fillies.

The Sprint representative is unclear, following an injury on Friday morning to Unlimited Value, who won the California Cup Sprint at Santa Anita last month.

Unlimited Value is owned by John Harris, who said that another of his horses - Super High - will not start in the Great States Challenge Distaff but will be pointed for the $200,000 La Brea Stakes, a seven-furlong sprint for 3-year-old fillies at Santa Anita on Dec. 28.