12/30/2006 1:00AM

New meet opens with allowance


Monday marks the start of a new year, and in what has become a tradition for Turfway Park, a new meet. The northern Kentucky track will begin 2007 with the start of its winter-spring meet, which immediately follows its holiday meet.

Aside from record-keeping purposes, there is not much difference between the two meets. The purses and quality of racing remain mostly the same. Around this time Turfway loses some Kentucky-based stables to Oaklawn Park and Gulfsteam Park for their meets, but picks up some horses from the Chicago area while Hawthorne is closed from Jan. 2-Feb. 22.

Monday's ninth race, a $21,200 first-level allowance at 1 1/16 miles, mirrors the kind of weekday feature horseplayers can expect over the next couple months before horses that stable in Southern states for the winter begin returning to the region. A modest field of eight has been entered, including the Donamire Farm-owned entry of Twilight Tap and Haunted Treasure.

Although the Donamire-owned duo rate as contenders, the horse to beat is Sky Diving, a 4-year-old Aptitude colt who twice placed in stakes races last winter and spring. He finished second in the Turf Paradise Derby in February and second in the WinStar Derby at Sunland Park in April.

Now based in Kentucky with trainer Paul McGee, Sky Diving comes off a close third-place finish at Turfway Dec. 17 in an allowance race similar to Monday's. Showing his customary early speed, he went to the front and held gamely to lose by a half-length. Dean Butler rides Sky Diving for owner B. Wayne Hughes.

Unlike Sky Diving, Twilight Tap and Haunting Treasure have both won over Turfway's Polytrack surface. Twilight Tap won a $30,000, nonwinners-of-two claiming race Dec. 17, and Haunting Treasure scored a maiden victory Dec. 15.

Miguel Mena rides Twilight Tap, who is trained by Greg Foley. Phil Teator has the mount on the Katherine Ball-trained Haunted Treasure.

Other contenders include Off the Scale, a turf-to-Polytrack runner who ran competitively over the summer at Arlington, and Boulder Tiger, a winner over $30,000, nonwinners-of-three claimers at Turfway Dec. 21.

First post for Monday's card is 1:10 p.m. Eastern. After being closed on Tuesday, the track will resume its standard weekday post time of 5:30 beginning on Wednesday. Saturday and Sunday cards will begin at 1:10.

Turfway Park's winter-spring meet runs through April 5 and is highlighted by the Grade 2, $500,000 Lane's End Stakes March 24.