08/02/2006 11:00PM

Sharp Writer looks able to handle Grace invaders


SANTA ROSA, Calif. - The only $100,000 stakes on the fair circuit, the Joseph T. Grace Handicap, took on added luster last year at the Sonoma County Fair when it was run on the brand-new turf course.

Last year's Grace attracted a strong field, with graded stakes winner Adreamisborn coming out on top. Saturday's edition has attracted a field of nine with solid entries from north and south.

Capitano won last year's Rolling Green at Golden Gate Fields and just won a three-way photo for second in the $200,000 Caesar Rodney at Delaware.

He comes north for trainer Ray Bell, who has had good luck with him here. Capitano was second in both the El Camino Real Derby and California Derby two years ago, beaten less than one combined length in those races.

Distorted did little in the San Fernando and Strub, a pair of Grade 2 events earlier this year, but has improved a bit since trainer Patrick Gallagher moved him to the turf.

Longshot types The Fourteenth, Prince of Gold, and Tormento de Oro also come north.

Waiting for them is Sharp Writer, who won the marathon Walnut Creek at 1 3/8 miles at Golden Gate Fields, lost by a head to the talented El Don in the San Matean at Bay Meadows, and then won the Alamedan at Pleasanton in his last start.

Sharp Writer's victory in the Alamedan was his first over a fast track. Though the win was not surprising, even trainer Jerry Hollendorfer admitted the race was really geared as a prep.

"He's been training real well or I wouldn't have tried him on dirt," Hollendorfer said after the race. "I gambled entering him here to prepare for the turf stakes at Santa Rosa."

Sharp Writer can give a repeat victory to Hollendorfer and jockey Russell Baze, the connections of Adreamisborn. Hollendorfer also won the race in 2003 with Cappuchino and was second with Yougottawanna in 2004.

Sharp Writer will appreciate the return to turf, where his late run proves very effective.

First Rate Event and Now Victory, second and third in the Alamedan, are also entered. They also will appreciate the return to turf.

Now Victory got caught up in sprint-like fractions in the Alamedan, which appeared a paceless race on paper, and held on well until late in the race. He should be a major pace player here without having to go so fast early, although Shadow Raider may also go for the lead.

First Rate Event should sit close to the leaders.