05/10/2004 11:00PM

Mercenary tops Lone Star feature

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Mercenary, who won an optional claimer at Fair Grounds the last time he raced over two turns on turf, will return to those conditions Thursday night in the featured eighth race at Lone Star. An optional claimer, the 1 1/16-mile turf race drew a field of 10, including statebred stakes winners April's Lucky Boy, Classoffiftyseven, Fly Slama Jama, and Notable Okie.

Mercenary has registered four of his six career wins on turf. He was set to run on the grass in his last start, but wet weather forced his race to a muddy main track, and he finished fourth to Maysville Slew in an open allowance April 25. Since that race, Maysville Slew has come back and run second, beaten a neck, in an allowance prep for the Lone Star Park Handicap.

Mercenary will be making his third start back from a layoff Thursday night. He shows a nice five-furlong breeze since his last start, and he should benefit from the drop into an optional claiming race. Leading rider Eddie Martin Jr. has the mount for trainer Bret Calhoun.

Mercenary, who is the field's highest money-earner with a bankroll of $314,874, is owned by Coast to Coast Racing Fund.

His chief rivals include Run to the Border, a closer shooting for his third straight win for trainer Paul Murphy.