12/15/2006 12:00AM

Skeleton Crew among favorites, thanks to Polytrack


Skeleton Crew does not fit the mold of what many people have come to expect from a horse that excels on the synthetic Polytrack surface. He is neither a turf horse, nor is he a late-runner who benefits from the surface's profile of being kind to closers.

A speed horse with little turf experience, he is nevertheless at his best racing over Polytrack, scoring all three of his victories on Turfway's synthetic strip. That fact will contribute to him being one of the favorites in Sunday's featured eighth race at Turfway, a $25,000 third-level optional claiming race going 6 1/2 furlongs.

To win, Skeleton Crew will have to overcome a layoff that stretches back to June 24, when he ran fifth, beaten 7 3/4 lengths, in the Beau Genius Stakes at Churchill Downs. But he is "good and sound," trainer Pat Huffman said, and should be fresh and at his best for his return.

"He likes the comfortable going there," he said.

He certainly did last winter and spring. Besides winning a maiden and allowance race at Turfway, he also took the Hansel Stakes by a neck on March 25, running a career-best 92 Beyer Speed Figure.

Skeleton Crew, a son of Elusive Quality out of the mare Hail Ho Silver, then began to tail off, running a non-threatening third in the Lafayette Stakes at Keeneland and twice going unplaced at Churchill Downs, including in the Beau Genius.

"We just thought we'd freshen him up," said Huffman, who trains Skeleton Crew for Ed Anthony, son of the notable horse owner John Ed Anthony.

Skeleton Crew will be put to a test against eight rivals, all of whom are older and more experienced. He is the lone 3-year-old in the field. Regular jockey Phil Teator rides.

Bully for You, claimed for $50,000 at Churchill Downs on Nov. 23, might be his toughest adversary. A winner of 7 of 18 starts, he comes off a neck score at Churchill Downs, the race from which he was claimed. Hot-riding apprentice Alonso Quinonez has the mount for new trainer David Vance.

Bully for You, like Skeleton Crew, is proven on Polytrack, having won 2 of 3 over the surface last winter.

Other prominent entrants include multiple stakes winner Killenaule, turf-to-Polytrack runner Helm Bank, and Eyeforglory, an aptly named one-eyed horse that has won 7 of 23 starts.

Trainer race close

In contrast to the jockey standings, in which Miguel Mena and Quinonez have distanced themselves from the rest of the colony, the trainer standings are wide open with about two weeks remaining in the holiday meet, which concludes Dec. 31. The winter-spring meet at Turfway then immediately follows.

Entering Friday's card, Joe Cain and Eddie Kenneally topped the standings with three wins apiece, and were closely followed by 18 trainers who had all won two races.

Make-up races

Turfway plans to make up some of the eight races lost because of a power outage Wednesday, which forced the cancellation of the card after one race was run. Sherry Pinson, director of communications for Turfway Park, said the track would add a race per day from Dec. 20 through 22. Turfway officials are also considering adding races in the week following Christmas.

After being dark on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, Turfway will race daily from Dec. 26 through Jan. 1 with a 1:10 p.m. first post. Turfway's traditional first post is 5:30 p.m. on weekdays.