08/10/2007 11:00PM

Silver Timber loves Spa turf

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - When Linda Rice breezed Silver Timber on the turf as a 2-year-old, she thought the colt could be something special.

Though it took her a year to prove it, Rice's instincts were correct as Silver Timber won the first three turf starts of his career last summer at 3. Two of those wins came here at Saratoga, including one performance in which he set a course record by running 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:01.34. Though that record has since been broken, Silver Timber hopes to renew his love affair with the Saratoga turf course when he runs in Monday's $80,000 Troy Stakes, the featured event on a 10-race card as the Saratoga meet hits the halfway point.

After an eight-month layoff, Silver Timber returned on June 13 with a solid third-place finish - he was beaten a head - at Belmont before wining a second-level allowance race on closing day at Belmont by running six furlongs in 1:07.43.

"First time out the turf was pretty soft, and I don't think he cares for a real yielding course, but I thought he ran well," Rice said. "Last time, he ran super."

Rice said it is not so much Saratoga's turf course as it is the 5 1/2-furlong distance that Silver Timber enjoys so much.

There are several interesting horses that figure to give Silver Timber a tussle in the Troy.

Unable to get a dirt allowance race to fill, Godolphin assistant trainer Rick Mettee opted to supplement both Afrashad and Council Member to the Troy for a fee of $200 each.

Afrashad has not run since taking the Fall Highweight last November at Aqueduct. He has since undergone surgery to remove a knee chip.

"I don't want to leave him in the barn when he's fresh and training so good," said Mettee. "Spots are few and far between."

Mettee said that jockey Richard Migliore, who rode Afrashad last year, "always seemed to think he'd go pretty much on anything."

As a 2-year-old in England, Afrashad won over a synthetic surface, and many horses who like synthetic tracks have performed well on turf. Afrashad will be coupled with Council Member, a listed stakes winner on turf in England. Council Member comes off a fourth-place finish in the Grade 2 True North on dirt.

As a 3-year-old, T.D. Vance won the Grade 2 Hall of Fame Stakes here going nine furlongs. Trainer Graham Motion cut him back in distance last fall and he ran quite well. This will be his first start since November, but T.D. Vance has won off workouts twice before.

First Word, Mr. Silver, and Midwatch complete the field.