10/29/2008 11:00PM

Sheets drops for Witches Brew


EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Sheets was a puzzle for trainer Alan Goldberg earlier this season.

"All year long, I couldn't understand why she wasn't running better," Goldberg said. "I told the owner to send her to someone else. I can't seem to get any run out of her. She acts great. She's doing great but she's not running."

Owner Robert Masterson disregarded that advice, leaving the 4-year-old filly in Goldberg's care.

For reasons not fully understood, Sheets turned the corner in her last three races, making her a top contender Friday night in the $60,000 Witches Brew Stakes at the Meadowlands Racetrack.

Yes, it is Halloween and the Big M is rolling out its traditional pair of races on the evening of hobgoblins: the Witches Brew and the Gray Ghost, a starter handicap for gray and roan horses.

The Witches Brew drew a field of 12. The race is scheduled for five-furlong on the grass, conditions permitting, after heavy rain forced turf races onto the main track Tuesday and Wednesday.

Goldberg plans to send out Sheets on either surface.

"We'll give it a whirl," Goldberg said. "Hopefully, it will be on the turf. We'll probably run either way."

Sheets, who joined Goldberg's barn this year, started the campaign running fifth in each of her first three starts.

She finally moved forward in the fourth race in late August at Monmouth Park, finishing third on the main track in a fourth-level allowance race to Thunders Dove, who later captured stakes races at Suffolk Downs and Belmont Park.

Following that encouraging effort, Goldberg switched Sheets back to grass for a 20-1 upset victory in the $200,000 Turf Amazon Stakes at Philadelphia Park. Most recently, Sheets was a pacesetting third in Belmont's $109,000 Xtra Heat Stakes behind Diamondrella and Smart and Fancy.

"She just got outrun," Goldberg said. "Those were two pretty good horses that beat her. There wasn't a whole lot of speed in the race, so we decided to go for it."

Goldberg is at a loss to explain the positive form reversal.

"What turned her around? I don't know," Goldberg said. "Her last couple have been much better, her last three haven't been bad."

Other top contenders in the field include House Quest, fourth in the Xtra Heat; Anofficerandalady, winner of the P.G. Johnson Stakes at the Meadowlands last fall; and the 1-2 finishers in last year's Witches Brew: Weeks and Beau Dare.

Lightning Power heads Gray Ghost

A field of gray horses offset by the green turf course amidst the shadows cast by the lights has made the Gray Ghost a popular seasonal feature at the Meadowlands.

The race is a starter handicap for runners who carried a claiming price of $25,000 or less in 2007-08. The $35,000 race at 1 1/16 miles attracted eight horses, including Lightning Power for trainer Colin Sherwood.

Like Sheets, Lightning Power found his best form over the last three races. The drop-back closer stepped up his game with a second in a $30,000 claimer at Monmouth in early September. He won the next two: a second-level allowance at Monmouth while erasing a 15-length deficit and a starter allowance at Delaware Park.