10/22/2007 11:00PM

Nobody's winning without a clean trip

EmailOCEANPORT N.J. - With 23 horses pre-entered in the inaugural Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf, it would have seemed safe to guess that the connections of some wannabe grass whizzes would get left out in the cold. But the way things shook out, pretty much everyone who really wanted a spot in the Juvenile Turf field got one.

Case in point is Cannonball, who won the King Cugat Stakes this past Sunday on closing day at Belmont Park. He was buried nine deep on the also-eligible list when pre-entries were taken, but still wound up with a spot in Friday's race.

Cannonball - if owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey actually run him - will be one of the longshots in the $1 million Juvenile Turf, which will be contested at one mile. Prussian, the unbeaten Bill Mott-trained colt, looks like the favorite, but overseas invaders may also have a say.

All of the other BC races max out at 14 starters, but this one is capped at 12, and probably for good reason. The BC Mile often turns chaotic with a bulky field scrambling into the first turn; imagine how crazy things could get with still-green 2-year-olds knocking each other around.

But even with a dozen, the winner of the Juvenile Turf will be a horse who gets a clean trip, and Prussian has shown the tactical speed to avoid the worst of the trouble. That said, he and jockey Kent Desormeaux will have little room for early error breaking from post 9, since a misstep could translate into a wide trip.

The invaders from the British Isles all look competitive. Strike the Deal is the most accomplished of them, with 2 wins from 7 starts and more than $216,000 in purse earnings. But the two horses based in Ireland, Domestic Fund and Achill Island, may have more upside in terms of Friday's race. Neither has yet won a stakes race, but both are by Sadler's Wells, who has sired more Breeders' Cup winners (five horses who won six races) than any other stallion.

Domestic Fund, however, drew poorly in post 12; things could work better for Achill Island in post 8.

Stakes winners The Leopard and Cherokee Triangle drew posts 3 and 4.

Two other turf-stakes winners, Gio Ponti and Nownownow, break from posts 6 and 7, respectively.

Preachin Man, a fast stretch-out sprinter likely to set the pace, figures to gun for the lead from post 10.