12/02/2008 12:00AM

Proven turfer runs for tag on inner dirt

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OZONE PARK, N.Y. - If you open it they will come: Thursday's eight races scheduled for Aqueduct's inner-dirt track lured 83 runners, an average of more than 10 per race.

The featured eighth race on Day 2 over the winterized surface is a six-furlong, first-level optional claimer for 2-year-olds, with only the New York-bred Show Me the Cash entered for the optional $75,000 claiming price.

Show Me the Cash finished last in his debut on dirt at Saratoga, which turned out to be a tough spot against the unbeaten Trinity Magic, who will certainly be voted champion New York-bred juvenile after winning the B.F. Bongard and Sleepy Hollow at Belmont.

Show Me the Cash showed considerably more in four subsequent starts on turf, notably a placing in the Grade 3 Pilgrim, in which he made the pace to the final strides. His entry for $75,000 makes economic sense, so as not to jeopardize eligibility for first-level conditions against his fellow New York-breds, whether on dirt in the immediate future or next spring back on grass.

"We're pretty much just seeing if he can run at all on dirt," said trainer Bruce Brown. "He's a New York-bred gelding, so that takes away from his value. The race against Trinity Magic was just one of those 'first-timer things,' a throw-out, so we'll give it a shot."

The pace figures to be contested between Pop Artist and Taqarub, who showed good early speed to win their respective debuts recently.

Taqarub, a $300,000 yearling buy at Saratoga's 2007 Fasig-Tipton sale for Shadwell Stable, went wire to wire on a sloppy main track here last month. He worked a bullet half-mile last week for Kiaran McLaughlin.

Pop Artist, purchased by Darley Stable for $275,000 out of the same sale, was reluctant to load for his debut at Belmont, but broke alertly to duel for command and drew off steadily in a $100,000 maiden claimer.

"That was unexpected - he's been fine and never had that type of a problem," said Tom Albertrani. "I was relieved to see him run that way. He ran impressively enough to give him a shot in an allowance. . . . This race will tell us a little bit more about him."

Other contenders include Prince Charming, dropping out of the Grade 3 Nashua; Fellow Crasher, winner of Monmouth's Tyro Stakes; and Great Debater, right back after a maiden win on Saturday.