12/04/2008 12:00AM

Sandburr ventures outside his comfort zone


Sandburr will attempt to win the Star of Texas Stakes for the third consecutive year on Saturday night, but there is a twist. It will be the first running of the race at Retama Park after Sam Houston Race Park canceled its meet this fall due to damage from Hurricane Ike. Retama picked up some of the lost cards, including Saturday night's Texas Champions Day program of eight statebred stakes worth $425,000.

The situation has Sandburr making a rare start over Retama's main track in the $75,000 Star of Texas, a 1o1/16-mile race for 3-year-olds and up. He has 1 win and 3 seconds from 7 lifetime starts on Retama's dirt, while 8 of his 16 career wins have come on the main track at Sam Houston.

"Obviously, he's won a lot of races at Sam Houston, so he has to really like that dirt over there," said Michael Stidham, who trains Sandburr. "Then again, he hasn't really run that many times at Retama, so I don't know that it's a disadvantage."

The Star of Texas is the annual centerpiece of the Texas Champions Day card, and for the past two years Sandburr has landed in the winner's circle following clear wins. A three-peat would be particularly sweet, because this year's Star of Texas might be the career finale for the 9-year-old Sandburr.

"It could be," said Stidham, who trains the gelding for Feel the Thunder Stable. "I'm not going to say definitely, but we're not planning on running him a lot longer."

Sandburr will be moving back to dirt Saturday following a close fifth-place finish in the $100,000 Texas Hall of Fame over Retama turf Oct. 4. Cliff Berry has the mount from post 9.

"I think it's pretty well established that he's better on dirt than turf," said Stidham. "Even though he ran some really good races on turf, he never won on it. It's definitely a benefit to get him back on the dirt."

Dreamsandvisions, who won the Hall of Fame, is also moving back to the main track, where he is a multiple stakes winner, for the Star of Texas.

"I really believe he's a little better dirt horse than he is a grass horse," said Steven Duke, who trains Dreamsandvisions.

The horse upset the Hall of Fame at 25-1.

"We just tried to keep him a little closer and not let him fall back as much and he had a flashback from his younger days," Duke said. "It worked out pretty good for us."

Luis Quinonez has the mount from post 2.

Ablaze With Spirit leads Richard King

Ablaze With Spirit, who was second in the Hall of Fame, will stick with turf and run in the $50,000 Richard King, a 1 1/8-mile race for 3-year-olds and up. Ablaze With Spirit was beaten a half-length by Dreamsandvisions.

"I thought he was unlucky," said Steve Asmussen, who trains Ablaze With Spirit.

The horse was boxed in, then came rolling in the 1 1/16-mile Hall of Fame. Asmussen added that the Richard King distance should suit Ablaze With Spirit, who earlier this year was third in the Grade 2 American Derby.

Big field for Groovy

A full gate of 14 horses will run in the $50,000 Groovy for 2-year-olds at seven furlongs. He's Boy Wonder will cut back to one turn for the race following his runner-up finish to Kick On last time out in the $150,000 Jean Lafitte at a mile at Delta.

"He ran a big race, but I'm not convinced he's better going long," said Danny Pish, who trains He's Boy Wonder.

One start prior, the horse had won a six-furlong division of the $125,000 Texas Stallion Sakes at Retama with a career-best Beyer of 85.

Seneca Summer goes for three straight

Seneca Summer will return to the statebred ranks for the $50,000 Spirit of Texas at six furlongs following a pair of allowance wins at Remington. He will break from the rail, and could get a nice trip behind Snuck By and Eye Wonder.

"He comes from a little off the pace," said Gary Thomas, who trains Seneca Summer.

* Stealth Cat, who has won two open-company stakes since May, is the one to beat in the $50,000 Yellow Rose.

* Taptam and Formal Flyer look like chief players in the $50,000 Martanza.

* Tiffany Royal is a top contender in the $50,000 Bara Lass.

* Pretty Squall returns to the Retama turf, site of her last win, for the $50,000 San Jacinto.