09/14/2005 11:00PM

Salford City back on week's rest


FLORENCE, Ky. - Patrick Biancone answered a question with a question when asked why he has chosen to run Salford City on just a week's rest Saturday in the Kentucky Cup Classic at Turfway Park.

"Why not?" said Biancone.

Why not, indeed. Considering the lack of a standout in the Grade 2 Classic, Salford City appears to fit the spot, and with Gary Stevens riding, he figures as perhaps the fourth or fifth choice in a wide-open betting race. A 4-year-old Irish-bred, Salford City won a Sept. 9 turf allowance at Belmont Park far more comfortably than his neck margin might suggest, and Biancone strongly suspects the gelding will like the new Polytrack surface at Turfway.

"He only ran the last quarter-mile," said Biancone, who will make the short drive here Saturday after spending the last week at the Keeneland yearling sales in Lexington. "He ran very good that day. After that, I thought, 'Let's bring him to Kentucky.' "

Salford City, owned by Michael Tabor, was gelded in June, and his comeback victory suggests further improvement could be forthcoming, said Biancone.

"He was a good horse before we gelded him, but I think he is more focused now," said Biancone.

Salford City has run 11 times in his career, all of them on grass. Biancone, like most horsemen monitoring the various nuances of Polytrack, said he is interested to see how a turf specialist such as Salford City will adapt to the synthetic surface.

"My feeling is he may like it a lot," he said. "We will see, won't we?"

Change in scheduling a thought

Turfway's president, Bob Elliston said he may consider moving the Kentucky Cup back a week next year to the fourth Saturday in September. The series mostly has been held on the third Saturday of the month.

"You'd have five weeks to the Breeders' Cup instead of six, which some horsemen might prefer," he said. "Either weekend, we're not stepping on Keeneland's big races, and we're not getting the horses running on Preview Day at Belmont, anyway.

"The main reason for moving it would be to build momentum for our fall meet. As it stands, we run the Kentucky Cup the second Saturday of our meet, then have almost two weeks left with no major focal point."

Elliston noted that television considerations are moot, since cable sports networks are jammed with college football every Saturday in the fall.

A Cup first: No Day

When Turfway introduced the first Kentucky Cup on Sept. 24, 1994, the winner of the Classic was Tabasco Cat, ridden by Pat Day.

Since then, Day has never missed a Kentucky Cup - until now. The Hall of Fame jockey hung up his tack last month at 51, taking most of the Kentucky Cup riding records with him.

Day won nine Kentucky Cup races, including six for trainer D. Wayne Lukas, who is easily the leading trainer in Kentucky Cup history with 14 wins.

Lukas, incidentally, was inducted Thursday night into the Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame in Louisville. Other inductees included the entire 1975 Kentucky Colonels team, which won its only American Basketball Association title that year, and coach Hubie Brown.

Rare appearance by Valenzuela

This is just the second time that Southern California riding star Patrick Valenzuela has ridden at Turfway. His first visit came in 1992, when he rode Treekster, trained by Vladimir Cerin, to a third-place finish behind eventual Kentucky Derby winner Lil E. Tee in the Jim Beam Stakes.

Valenzuela's former California colleague, Stevens, has far more experience at Turfway. The Hall of Fame jockey won six Kentucky Cup events during the four straight years he rode in the series (1995-98). Stevens also has ridden in the Lane's End Stakes (formerly the Jim Beam) three times.

West Coast visitors check out surface

The curiosity of Polytrack enticed the racing secretaries from the three major Southern California tracks into a Wednesday-night visit to Turfway. Martin Panza of Hollywood Park, Rick Hammerle of Santa Anita, and Tom Robbins of Del Mar "all wanted to see the track," said Elliston.

"They drove up from the Keeneland sales and had a little dinner with us and a few of the horsemen from California."