11/14/2009 1:00AM

Move to dirt a plus for Sweet Goodbye


Sweet Goodbye rarely runs a bad race, as evidenced by her 7-for-10 lifetime record. But she's strictly a dirt horse, which put her at a distinct disadvantage for Saturday's $50,000 All Brandy Stakes on the turf at Laurel Park.

Clearly, trainer Chris Grove's gamble paid off, however. After more than six inches of rain drenched central Maryland since mid-October, Laurel officials decided Wednesday that there will be no more turf racing this year. The All Brandy will now be contested at 1 1/8 miles on the main track, a switch that makes Sweet Goodbye a solid favorite.

In her only other start locally this season, Sweet Goodbye was hard used from post 10 while tackling males in the $190,000 Maryland Million Classic. She faded to seventh that day but rebounded nicely to take the two-turn, seven-furlong HBPA Jefferson County at Charles Town nearly a month ago.

The drop from open company to a stakes restricted to Maryland-breds should make Sweet Goodbye formidable. In her two other starts against Maryland-breds last fall, Sweet Goodbye dominated the Maryland Million Oaks and the Northern Dancer.

Trainer Chris Grove said he believes Sweet Goodbye has yet to hit her peak.

"She is just learning how to relax and be a race horse," Grove said. "If she develops the ability to rate effectively, she'll reach her potential and get to the next level. Right now, she has earned $250,000 just by raw talent by going to the lead. As we move forward this could be really exciting."

Grove indicated Sweet Goodbye's next start will be the $50,000 What a Summer Stakes at Laurel on Jan. 9, followed by the Grade 2, $150,000 Barbara Fritchie Handicap on Feb. 13.

Five Diamonds and Love's Blush - a pair of 3-year-olds who ran one-two three weeks ago in the one-mile Twixt - appear to be Sweet Goodbye's chief challengers.

Five Diamonds has been first or second in each of her last four starts. Like Sweet Goodbye, she has enough tactical speed to either set or sit just off the early pace.

Love's Blush, a deep closer who is still eligible for a first-level allowance, ran the best race of her six-race career two starts ago when she was beaten only a length in the Maryland Million Oaks. She made up more than seven lengths and passed six horses in the last quarter-mile of the Twixt.

The possibility of a wet track following a forecast that called for three straight days of rain would enhance the chances of off-track specialist Ask the Moon.

In her last four starts, all over tracks rated sloppy or good, the

4-year-old Ask the Moon has three wins, including a wire-to-wire score in the Lighthouse at Monmouth Park.