10/14/2003 11:00PM

Skeet takes a shot in turf stakes

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - Skeet was just plugging along through a fair-to-middling racing career when Bob Holthus ran the colt on grass. Since then, things haven't been the same for Skeet, who figures as one of the favorites Friday in the $75,000 Woodford County Stakes at Keeneland.

It was on the June 14 Stephen Foster undercard at Churchill Downs that Holthus, who is in his 52nd year as a licensed trainer, watched Skeet win a five-furlong allowance race on turf. Since then, Skeet has won three of four attempts in turf sprints, and is an obvious contender in a full field entered in the Woodford County. Rene Douglas, who rode Skeet to victory in the Taylor's Special on closing day at Arlington Park, has the mount.

Skeet is one of several top challengers in the inaugural running of the 5 1/2-furlong Woodford County. The others include Testify, a winner of over $480,000 who is trained by Randy Morse; Joe's Son Joey, who has earned nearly $360,000 racing primarily on the East Coast for trainer Tim Hills; Grangeville, an 8-year-old with nine wins who is trained by Jonathan Sheppard; and Abderian, a consistent Irish-bred based in Maryland with Benny Feliciano Jr.

Twelve were entered in the Woodford County, but a maximum of 10 can start. The rest of the main body of the field is Tricky Storm, Wudantunoit, Red Lightning, Maybry's Boy, and Amazon River. The two also-eligibles are Chosen Chief and Reverse Psychology.

The Woodford County is the second of four new fall races named for counties adjoining Fayette County, where Keeneland is located. It is carded as the ninth of 10 Friday races.

One race earlier, Offlee Wild will drop in class and face older horses for the first time in a $54,000 allowance at 1 1/16 miles. Since finishing third in the Blue Grass Stakes here in April, Offlee Wild has disappointed, finishing 12th in the Kentucky Derby, ninth in the Kentucky Cup Sprint, and seventh in the Indiana Derby.

Three other allowances (races 4, 6, and 7) also are carded Friday, when first post is 1:15 p.m.

Two six-figure stakes will be run this weekend at Keeneland: the Grade 3, $100,000 Valley View on Saturday, and the $150,000 Rood and Riddle Dowager on Sunday.