08/11/2004 11:00PM

Request for Parole never better

Request for Parole wins the U.N. Handicap. He will like the Sword Dancer distance, but not a soft turf course.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Request for Parole enters Saturday's Grade 1 in the best form of his career, but the potential for a rain-soaked turf course at Saratoga has the horse's trainer, Stanley Hough, concerned.

If the forecast for an inch of rain on Friday holds true, it will add more moisture to an already soggy course.

"I don't want a soft course. A little give would be okay," Hough said.

Request for Parole, who will face five rivals in the $500,000 Sword Dancer, is coming off his first Grade 1 win in the United Nations Handicap at Monmouth Park on July 3. He also won two other races this year, including the Grade 3 Mac Diarmida at Gulfstream Park in January. In his only start at the Sword Dancer distance of 1 1/2 miles, Request for Parole finished second in the Grade 2 Pan American Handicap at Gulfstream in March.

"I think a mile and a half is his best distance," said Hough, who won the 1993 Sword Dancer with Spectacular Tide. "He's a steady-running horse."

Javier Castellano rides Request for Parole from post 4.

The probable pacesetter and most accomplished horse in the field is Balto Star, who has $2,010,446 in purse earnings. Balto Star ran one of his worst races in last year's Sword Dancer over a course listed as good, and finished last. He enters the Sword Dancer off a sixth-place finish in the United Nations, his first start since Feb. 22.

"He ran a good race, but wasn't quite ready," said Todd Pletcher, Balto Star's trainer. "We missed some time with him in Florida because of a wrenched ankle. He ran his race to the eighth pole in the United Nations. I think he should move forward off that."

Balto Star drew the rail and will have John Velazquez aboard.

Based on Silverfoot's last two starts, he should have no trouble handling a soft course. In May, Silverfoot won the Grade 3 Louisville Handicap on a yielding course. In his next start, Silverfoot finished second in the Grade 3 Stars and Stripes on a soft course at Arlington. Silverfoot was disqualified for interference and placed fourth in the Stars and Stripes.

"A soft course won't hurt us," Silverfoot's trainer, Dallas Stewart, said. "He's doing well and acts like he likes it here."

Rochester, beaten a nose by Silverfoot in the Louisville Handicap, will try to give his connections their third Sword Dancer win. Rochester's trainer, Jonathan Sheppard, and owner, Augustin Stable, won back-to-back Sword Dancers with With Anticipation in 2001 and 2002.

"[Rochester] is a very solid, useful horse," Sheppard said.

Better Talk Now, second in the Grade 2 Bowling Green last month at Belmont, seeks his first win of the year.

Trainer Rick Violette was pleased with B. A. Way's stakes debut in the Bowling Green. B. A. Way, a winner of four races this year, finished fourth, beaten a neck for third.

"From the five-sixteenth pole on home, he was between horses and in a crunch," Violette said.

The field

Sword Dancer Invitational
Purse: $500,000; 1 1/2 miles, turf; Grade 1

1Balto StarJ. Velazquez1202-1
2SilverfootR. Albarado1166-1
3Better Talk NowR. Dominguez1185-1
4Request for ParoleJ. Castellano1238-5
5RochesterC. Velasquez1168-1
6B. A. WayS. Bridgmohan1166-1

* Track morning line odds
* Television: Saturday, 4-6 p.m. (Eastern), ABC