05/23/2003 11:00PM

Mountaineer: Turf course opens

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A pair of 7 1/2-furlong stakes races open the turf course at Mountaineer Park on Monday night.

The Decoration Day Handicap for fillies and mares and the Memorial Day Handicap for 3-year-olds and up, both worth $75,000, will be run back- to-back as races 3 and 4 on the 10-race program.

Assuming the rain forecasted for earlier in the weekend doesn't force the stakes off the grass, Ms Isadorable and Guardianofthegate are the respective horses to beat in the Decoration Day and the Memorial Day.

Ms Isadorable, a 4-year-old filly trained by Margaret Grimm, will be making her stakes debut in the Decoration Day. In two starts on grass this year, both over yielding turf at Keeneland, Ms Isadorable just missed in a three-horse photo and drew off to beat second-level allowance horses. Her Beyer Speed Figures of 84 and 86 for those two races compare favorably to the other logical contenders.

Persian Silver is a two-time winner over the Mountaineer turf, including last year's West Virginia President's Cup at one mile. Lately, however, the 5-year-old Persian Silver's form has soured. She has lost her last five races, dating back to November, by a combined 97 lengths.

Storm Saga has been away from the races since January, but that layoff is short compared to how long it has been since she last competed on turf. Although she is 3 for 7 lifetime on grass, Storm Saga hasn't raced on turf since November 2001 at Santa Anita.

If the race gets moved to the main track, Thistledown-based mare Ashwood C C would become the favorite. A winner of 11 of 32 starts, Ashwood C C won five races in 2002, including a 6 1/2-length romp in the slop at Mountaineer going a mile.

In the Memorial Day, the 7-year-old Guardianofthegate shoots for his fifth consecutive victory. Guardianofthegate spent the winter at Tampa Bay Downs, where he dominated the best turf horses on the grounds, winning two stakes with back-to-back Beyers of 98.

Magical Madness and On to Richmond appear to be Guardianofthegate's chief challengers.

Magical Madness ran well in two turf stakes at a mile last year at Mountaineer. His two starts this year include a wire-to-wire win at a mile at Gulfstream Park.

On to Richmond defeated Guardianofthegate by 1 1/2 lengths when they met in an allowance in mid-March at Tampa. He won three times on turf at Mountaineer last summer. On to Richmond also is capable of handling an off track if the race is shifted to the dirt.