04/29/2010 11:00PM

Rain may be key in Woodford


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Just as an off track could affect the outcome of Saturday's Kentucky Derby, forecasted heavy rainfall Saturday may play a role in deciding the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic in the race preceding the Derby.

With the National Weather Service predicting rainfall amounts of between one to two inches, the Woodford, a $500,000 race at 1 1/8 miles, is likely to be contested over a yielding or soft course.

That scenario would seemingly enhance the chances of 9-5 morning-line favorite Court Vision, who won the Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile last October at Keeneland on soft ground. Also last year, he ran fourth in the Grade 1 Manhattan on yielding turf at Belmont and third in the Woodford on good turf.

Wet going also would seemingly favor Grade 2 San Marcos winner Loup Breton, a $25,000 supplement to the race who won stakes over yielding and soft ground in France earlier in his career, and Grade 2 Mervin Muniz winner Blues Street, who won an optional claiming race over a good course at Aqueduct last fall and was second in a $100,000 claiming race over soft turf last summer at Saratoga.

Beyond the variable of course condition, another key to the race will be how Court Vision responds to a three-week turnaround after running second to Karelian in the Grade 1 Maker's Mark Mile at Keeneland on April 9.

Rick Dutrow, who trains Court Vision for owners IEAH Stables and the Resolute Group Stable, prefers to give his elite stakes horses five to six weeks between races.

"With me, it's a concern," he said of the timing. "Hopefully, it isn't with him."

Dutrow said Court Vision has done well since the Maker's Mark, and having made just two starts this year - with his other race being a victory via disqualification in the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap - the horse should still be fresh.

Robby Albarado rides Court Vision, the 124-pound highweight.

California invader Loup Breton, trained by Julio Canani, receives three pounds from Court Vision, as does Blues Street. Loup Breton is the 4-1 second choice on the morning line; Blues Street is the 6-1 fourth choice.

Loup Breton was one the top grass horses this winter at Santa Anita, where he ran second in the Grade 2 San Gabriel Handicap prior to his San Marcos victory. Most recently, he was tried unsuccessfully over the Pro-Ride synthetic surface in the March 6 Santa Anita Handicap, running 11th.

Garrett Gomez rides Loup Breton, who after racing with blinkers in all four of his U.S. starts will have them removed Saturday.

Other graded stakes winners in the Woodford include potential pacesetter Wise River, Al Khali, Battle of Hastings, and General Quarters.

Last year's Grade 1 Blue Grass Stakes winner, General Quarters makes just his second turf start. Although General Quarters finished eighth in that grass race, owner-trainer Tom McCarthy believes it was not indicative of the horse's turf potential, noting that General Quarters engaged in a speed duel that left him tired in the stretch.

General Quarters, a son of Sky Mesa, has large feet, a trait often seen in successful turf horses, and he pleased McCarthy with a five-furlong turf breeze in 1:05 around the dogs at Churchill on April 20.