08/10/2004 11:00PM

River Downs track report

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The biggest local prep for next month's Grade 3, $200,000 Cradle Stakes will be run as the 11th race on Saturday at River Downs. As in years past, the Cradle prep, an open allowance for 2-year-olds, offers a $25,000 purse and will be run at a mile and 70 yards.

The Cradle prep has not, in fact, served as a stepping-stone to victory in the Cradle in recent years. Even Harlan's Holiday, the Ohio-bred who started at River before his victory in the 2001 Cradle, bypassed the prep in favor of a statebred stakes.

The Cradle prep does serve several purposes, however. Local horsemen with 2-year-olds not quite of Cradle caliber find the race intriguing because of the purse, one of the highest offered during the meet that is not restricted to statebreds.

The Cradle prep is also one of the earliest opportunities for horsemen to test their young runners around two turns. It also provides those 2-year-olds precocious enough to have already passed their first allowance condition a place to run that is not a stakes.

The likely favorite in the Cradle prep is the Tom Amoss-trained Cat Tourn, a dual winner in claiming company whose only loss occurred in the Grade 3 Kentucky Breeders' Cup at Churchill Downs. Me Son, the beaten favorite in the Hoover Stakes for Ohio-breds last month, is another likely contender.

* Turf racing, discontinued Aug. 3 because of wear and tear on the course, is scheduled to resume Saturday, weather permitting.