03/21/2008 11:00PM

Only two have tried turf before


SAN MATEO, Calif. - A field of six 3-year-olds, four making their turf debuts, meet Monday at Bay Meadows in a wide-open $25,000 claimer at one mile.

Sportsbookjunkee, with two races on grass, is the most experienced turf runner in the field. Down by the Lake has one turf start. Carson's Melody, Tahoe Blues, Ballet Way, and Patriotic Prince will be racing on turf for the first time.

Ballet Way and Patriotic Prince just won bottom-level $8,000 maiden claimers, while Sportsbookjunkee recently graduated for a $12,500 tag. Tahoe Blues steps up following a victory in a $10,000 claimer.

Although only six runners signed up for Monday's feature, turf racing has helped boost field size at the meet since the course opened March 15.

Through the first five days the turf course was in operation, 11 turf races attracted an average field size of 7.5 runners. The 31 main-track races averaged 6.5. Entries this past weekend saw 9.3 runners per turf race, 7.3 for main-track races.

Bay Meadows has purposely used the course sparingly early in the meet and will increase the number of grass races as the meet approaches its end on May 11.

"They did the right thing," said turf superintendent Bernie Eastridge, who also supervises the Hollywood Park turf course and helped with the construction and maintenance of the Santa Rosa turf course during its first year.

"We killed the old track in December and completely reseeded it with a perennial rye, which is a very strong strain. It's still growing and is only going to get better so that we can use it a lot as the meet continues."

Despite heavy rains in January, the new grass took root well, Eastridge said. It grew during warmer spells in February and early March.

As at other tracks, the rail on the Bay Meadows turf course is adjusted in or out to save wear and tear on certain lanes. The rail was put 25 feet out from its innermost setting the first three days the course was used. After being lightly cut for the first time and heavily watered on Tuesday and Wednesday, the course ran from the 12-foot rail before being dropped to its true inside position Saturday.