09/23/2010 3:42PM

O'Connell hoping Needles, Judy's Red Shoes stay on turf


MIAMI − The volatile south Florida weather and availability of the turf course could go a long way in deciding two of the three races on the undercard of Saturday’s Festival of the Sun Preview program at Calder.

The $65,000 Needles and its filly counterpart, the $65,000 Judy’s Red Shoes, are carded at 1 1/16 miles on the turf, but with heavy rainfall earlier in the week and more rain in the forecast for Saturday, chances are good both races will be decided on the main track.

That would be disappointing news to the connections of several of the scheduled participants, including trainer Kathleen O’Connell, who has entered graded turf stakes winner Fly by Phil and Flatter This in the Needles and turf specialist Regina Twain in the Judy’s Red Shoes.

Fly by Phil has not started since upsetting the odds-on Lost Aptitude in the Grade 3 Tropical Park Derby, which was decided over a yielding turf course here on New Year’s Day. The win was Fly by Phil’s third in a row.

“He wound up with some small bone spurring directly behind the knee, and if you look at the X-ray it looked like a thorn on a rose bush,” O’Connell said. “They had to operate and grind the spur down, after which we had to give him plenty of time to recuperate. It’s very unfortunate we have to come back in a stakes, especially since at this point it seems about 90 percent certain this race will be run on the dirt. Even though he’s run well on both surfaces, it’s harder to return from this long of a layoff on dirt than turf.”

O’Connell also said not to overlook Flatter This if the race moves to the dirt.

“He’s my Budweiser longshot in the race,” O’Connell said.

Tannersville and Bim Bam are also better suited for the turf than dirt in the Needles. Tannersville is coming off a 7 3/4-length allowance win over older horses on grass, and Bim Bam has won two stakes on turf this season.

Bernie the Maestro, wire-to-wire winner of the American Dreamer Stakes on the main track here earlier this summer, and Strong Star could be the major beneficiaries if the Needles is moved to dirt.

O’Connell said she might not run Regina Twain if the Judy’s Red Shoes moves to the main track. A 3-year-old filly, Regina Twain finished sixth under allowance conditions in a race switched from turf to dirt Aug. 22. Regina Twain had finished first in five of her seven previous starts on grass, including the Noble Robyn Stakes, in which she was disqualified, and Trip for A.J. was given the victory.

Trip for A.J. brings a three-race winning streak into the Judy’s Red Shoes field and is the most versatile of the main contenders. She has won each of her last three starts in impressive fashion, including the Nancy’s Glitter Handicap on dirt and the Ms Brookski on grass.

Musical Romance has held her form well all season but appears to be a better filly racing on turf than dirt. She defeated Trip for A J and Regina Twain in the Strikethedancer on grass late this spring and most recently finished second in the Ms Brookski.

The $55,000 Joey Blueeyes at a mile and 70 yards on the main track will be the fifth and final stakes on the Festival Preview card. Trainer Marty Wolfson holds the strongest hand with Grade 3 winner Motovato and stakes-winning stablemate Causeway’s Kin.