01/15/2004 1:00AM

More dirt on tap for Freefourinternet


Freefourinternet's win in an off-the-turf race two starts ago has opened up a whole new world for him, as he starts as the 119-pound highweight in Saturday night's $100,000 Maxxam Gold Cup Handicap at Sam Houston Race Park.

A 6-year-old, Freefourinternet has built his reputation on turf, with wins in races like the Grade 2 Kelso Breeders' Cup at Belmont Park last October. But when he captured a tough optional claimer on dirt at Fair Grounds on Dec. 14, his connections began looking at some main-track races for the horse, starting with the Maxxam.

"We were pretty excited with how he ran on the dirt two starts back, and this race happened to come at a good time," said Joan Scott, who trains Freefourinternet for Ron Peltz. "It's a good spot to try him in stakes company on the dirt."

Peltz said a strong effort in the Maxxam could lead Freefourinternet down any number of paths, including the Grade 2, $500,000 New Orleans Handicap at Fair Grounds on Feb. 29. Freefourinternet is even nominated to some of the races on the Dubai World Cup card.

"The connections that I bought him from, they always felt he would be a much better horse on the dirt," said Peltz. "It just never worked out that we went back to the dirt. His pedigree says he probably should be better on dirt, [but] he showed such an affinity for the turf."

Freefourinternet, who is a son of Tabasco Cat, has won 6 of 26 starts and $526,182, with $490,674 of that amount earned on turf. He has made three starts on the main track, with his best finishes being the win at Fair Grounds and a third-place finish in an off-the-turf stakes at Hollywood Park last May.

As for Freefourinternet's untapped dirt potential, Peltz and Scott are not the only believers - his regular rider is high on him, too.

"Robby Albarado works him and knows the horse well, and he says run him on the dirt, too," said Peltz. "Hopefully it will all work out."

And if it doesn't?

"We always have the turf to fall back on," said Peltz.

Peltz also said Freefourinternet has long been under consideration for two turf races, the Grade 2, $500,000 Mervin Muniz at Fair Grounds on March 21 and the $200,000 Connally Breeders' Cup Turf at Sam Houston.

* Peltz has contributed a share of Freefourinternet's earnings to various charities. Among them are the Racetrack Chaplaincy of America and victims of a tornado that hit Carbon Hill, Ala.

New addition to the handicap ranks

Sir Cherokee, winner of last year's Grade 2, $500,000 Arkansas Derby, should be a nice addition to the handicap ranks this year. He gets his first crack at such competition in the Maxxam, in which he has been assigned second high weight of 118 pounds.

With a good effort, Sir Cherokee's connections would like to see him advance to the New Orleans Handicap and the Grade 2, $500,000 Oaklawn Handicap at his home track of Oaklawn on April 3.

"That all depends on him," said Mike Tomlinson, who trains Sir Cherokee for Domino Stud of Lexington.

Distaff draws competitive field of 12

Several other stakes will support the Maxxam Gold Cup. With a field of 12 fillies and mares to sort through, the $40,000 Sam Houston Distaff Handicap might be the most difficult race of the night to handicap. Cases can be made for a number of starters in the 1 1/16-mile race, which is led by 118-pound highweight Reason to Talk.

Reason to Talk won this race last year and will be coupled in the wagering this year with her half-sister, La Reason. Terry Thompson has been named by trainer David Vance on both halves of the entry.

Reason to Talk was a four-length allowance winner in her last start, which came at Turfway Park. Chief threats include Spirited Maiden, who was second in the $60,000 Truly Bound Handicap last out at Fair Grounds; Cheryville Slew, a fast-closing third in the $50,000 Golden Triangle at Delta Downs; and Cielo Girl.

* Won C C, Term Sheet, Catalissa, and Record Assembly all bring sharp records over the local main track into the $40,000 Sam Houston Sprint Handicap. Record Assembly will start as the 117-pound highweight in the seven-furlong race for older horses on the strength of his Nov. 15 win in the $100,000 Star of Texas.

* Got Koko, who has been named Texas-bred Horse of the Year, is among those that will be honored during the Texas Thoroughbred Association's annual awards banquet Saturday night at Sam Houston.

* There is a $2,500 online handicapping contest at www.shrp.com tied into the Maxxam on Saturday.