01/05/2006 12:00AM

'Skeleton' won't be ignored this time

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Bettors didn't notice Skeleton Crew when he made his debut at Turfway Park on Dec. 11, but he soon made his presence felt. Dismissed at odds of over 25-1, Skeleton Crew dueled for the lead, turned back a pair of challenges on the turn, and drew clear in the stretch to win by 5 3/4 lengths.

In Saturday's $50,000 Turfway Prevue, a 5 1/2-furlong race, he'll seek a repeat performance, this time at a much lower price. Following his debut victory, in which he earned a 85 Beyer Speed Figure, Skeleton Crew appears likely to vie for favoritism in the 12-horse field with Final Copy, a winner of 3 of 6 starts.

Although was paid little respect by bettors in his debut, trainer Pat Huffman said the victory was not a surprise. Skeleton Crew had trained well at Highpoint Farm and Training Center in LaGrange, Ky., which has among its facilities a three-quarter-mile track made of Polytrack, the surface in place at Turfway Park.

Skeleton Crew's debut win appears legitimate. In addition to the race being fast, it has been productive. Four horses who finished behind Skeleton Crew have raced again, with two winning, one placing second, and one finishing off the board.

Huffman said he decided to forgo running Skeleton Crew back in an allowance after he checked the past performances of those nominated to the Turfway Prevue. "It looked like a nonwinners of two," he said. "I felt it would be worth taking a shot."

Eddie Martin Jr. rides Skeleton Crew, who is owned by Ed Anthony.

leads the field in victories, having won a maiden race at Ellis Park on Oct. 8, an entry-level allowance at Churchill on Nov. 5, and an open allowance at Turfway on Dec. 18. Sent off at 1-5 odds in the Dec. 18 race, Final Copy had to work harder than the public anticipated, winning by 1 1/2 lengths over Flaming Glory after drifting out at the quarter pole.

His entry-level allowance win was a far better effort, a 6 1/2-length triumph in which he earned an 86 Beyer, the best figure among the Turfway Prevue starters. Jesus Castanon, the holiday meet's leading rider, will return to Turfway from his winter base at Tampa Bay Downs for the mount.

Other contenders in the Turfway Prevue include Warrior Within and Tale of the Hawk, the one-two finishers from a first-level allowance at Turfway on Dec. 27.