06/20/2005 11:00PM

Romans live in turf sprints


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - There is validity to the argument that if some tracks would card a higher percentage of their races on the grass, the races would fill better. Unfortunately, the reality is that practicality precludes overuse of the turf course, and racing officials find themselves struggling to fill dirt races almost on a daily basis.

This issue arises in light of how racing secretary Doug Bredar has used an entry-level allowance as the feature race for Thursday at Churchill Downs. The five-furlong turf race drew so many entries - 23 - that Bredar split it into two divisions, yielding co-featured fifth and ninth races, each for a purse of $49,600.

The eagerness of horsemen to race their horses on grass is partly illustrated by the fact that 16 of the 23 colts and geldings entered in the features made their most recent start on dirt, while 11 of the 23 have no turf experience whatsoever. The result of these unknown variables is that horseplayers are faced with new and perplexing handicapping factors, to many a welcome addition to what might otherwise be a humdrum weekday program.

What is not new is Dale Romans having a contender in pretty much anything Bredar offers up. Romans may have the favorite in both divisions, with in the ninth. Both are 3-year-olds that have shown a high turn of speed in limited opportunities, and with the Romans stable firing on all cylinders, it would come as no surprise if his horses swept both races.

If British Attitude, who was beaten as a 2-5 favorite a month ago in his first crack at this allowance condition, disappoints again, the fifth race might go to , who returns from an eight-month layoff for Steve Asmussen; Louderfasterharder, a sharp second with a 91 Beyer Speed Figure in his latest start; or Casual Cat or Swissle Stick, both of whom have dangerous speed.

Miners Bid also appears to have some heady competition in the ninth. Other logical contenders include , who turns back in distance after showing speed in recent turf routes; So Gifted, who has come to peak form in recent weeks; and About Face and High Rise, both entered off recent maiden victories.

The Thursday card also includes an entry-level allowance (race 8) for fillies and mares at the rarely run distance of 1 1/4 miles.