02/20/2002 1:00AM

Mystery Giver part of strong turf package


Mystery Giver, who won the $150,000 Fair Grounds Breeders' Cup on Feb. 2, will be highweighted at 118 pounds Saturday night in what may be the deepest field of horses ever assembled for the $200,000 Connally Breeders' Cup Turf at Sam Houston Race Park in Houston.

The 1 1/8-mile race has drawn a full field of 12, and a case can be built for almost every horse in the race, which is one of three turf stakes on the card. Also on the program is the $50,000 Sam Houston Turf Sprint, and the $50,000 Jersey Lilly.

Eddie Martin, the leading rider at Fair Grounds, will be in town to ride Mystery Giver, who will attempt to follow in the footsteps of Candid Glen, who won last year's Fair Grounds Breeders' Cup one race before capturing the Connally.

Candid Glen will be back to defend his title, as is another past winner of the race, Chorwon, who will make his 9-year-old debut Saturday.

Adding to the field's depth is the Bobby Frankel-trained El Gran Papa, who ships in from California on the heels of a third-place finish in the Grade 2 San Gabriel Handicap. The horse is owned by Tom Tatham of Houston, and will be ridden by Garrett Gomez.

Morluc returns in Sprint

Morluc, who has not raced since he finished second, beaten a nose by Falvelon, in the Hong Kong Sprint at Sha Tin Racecourse on Dec. 16, will make his seasonal debut in the Turf Sprint. The five-furlong turf race has drawn eight others, including the entry of Boots on Sunday and Wild Again Again.

Morluc was invited to run in the Golden Shaheen in Dubai in March, but will pass the race to continue racing on turf. Last year, Morluc finished seventh in the Golden Shaheen behind Caller One.

"He's not as good on the dirt as the grass, so we decided to try this race," said Randy Morse, who trains Morluc for Michael Cloonan. "There aren't many races for a sprinter on the grass. You have to take what comes."

Plans call for running Morluc, a $50,000 claim who has earned $853,503 since Morse transferred him to turf in 1999, back through most of the same races he ran in last year. The horse's primary goal is to again compete in the Hong Kong Sprint, a race in which he has finished a close second in the last two years to Falvelon.

Jockey Robby Albarado, who teamed with Morse to win last year's Sam Houston Turf Sprint with Testify, has the mount Saturday.

Boots on Sunday goes to turf

Boots on Sunday, who finished a strong second to Kings Command after setting the pace in the $50,000 King Cotton on Feb. 2, will make a rare start on grass in the Turf Sprint.

Boots on Sunday has made his mark sprinting against Texas-breds on the main track, and with few opportunities for statebreds on turf, he has raced lightly on grass. He is however, a winner on the surface, having captured last year's prep for the Turf Sprint over Vinnie's Boy.

"It kind of remains to be seen if [turf] moves him up, but my thoughts on it are that he's just about the same going five-eighths on turf as he is three-quarters on dirt," said trainer Danny Pish.

That's high praise. Boots on Sunday has earned the bulk of his more than $275,000 in earnings under those conditions. Regular rider Roman Chapa has the mount.

Last week, Boots on Sunday served as an "honorary groomsman" at Chapa's wedding, which was held in the paddock at Sam Houston. "His wife wanted to do that just to surprise Roman," said Pish.

"We put four white polos [walking bandages] on him and brought him to the paddock. He stood off to the side, and wondered what was going on. Then Roman and his wife stepped over in their wedding duds, and with Roman holding him, took a picture. He loves the big horse about as much as I do."