12/17/2003 1:00AM

Rain can't keep races off turf


ALBANY, Calif. - Despite the onslaught of winter rains, careful handling of the Lakeside Turf Course has allowed Golden Gate Fields racing secretary Tom Doutrich to continue to card turf races.

He'll use the turf for Friday's co-feature, a $40,000 starter allowance for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles. The race drew eight runners, six of whom scored their lone victories on the turf.

"This course doesn't seem to handle rain as well as some," Doutrich said.

As a result, he and turf superintendent Jason Spetnagel work closely in maintaining the course as well as possible.

Doutrich has limited the number of turf sprints, which have a tendency to rip up the course more than route races.

He has also tried to hold down the number of turf races on a given day. That, according to Spetnagel, is very important.

"We really work hard at keeping the course together after every race," Spetnagel said. "Putting it back together after a race, walking the course, replacing divots, helps keep the grass in the best shape possible. If you don't put it back together after each races, problems can snowball on you."

Turf racing is popular with trainers, and races on the turf usually outdraw races on the dirt.

"A turf course does help us," Doutrich said. "We like to use the course on weekends to have full fields, but six of the last seven weekends, we've had rain. What hurts us is when the forecasts miss by 24 hours. Even 12 hours can make a difference. When we have to take a race off the turf, it hurts."

Friday's turf race is an interesting one. Lightening, second as the favorite in her past two starts, looks again like the one to beat with her stalking style. She was an odds-on choice in her last race, which was shifted from the turf to the dirt.

O.K. Corral, third in that same Dec. 3 race, has a bit more speed than Lightening but will get pace pressure from recent maiden winner Princess Razyana.

Relaxing Green, who has been running in the Chicago area, will make her Golden Gate Fields debut for leading trainer Jerry Hollendorfer. She has plenty of speed in the race to set up her closing kick.

Six entered a 1 1/16-mile allowance race Friday. Destined to Win and Mr. Persistency have won two straight, but Sharpster, who dead-heated with Commercant Vic at Bay Meadows, may be the one to beat.