07/16/2007 11:00PM

Some top talent eyes turf


LAS VEGAS - Following workouts around the country at major venues can be quite revealing. Lately, at least three notable 3-year-olds have been working in the morning on turf: Circular Quay, Nobiz Like Shobiz, and Sightseeing. When top-class runners achieve success on dirt, they usually do not get the opportunity to race on turf even if they have turf pedigrees. Graustark, His Majesty, Stage Door Johnny, Holy Bull, Go for Gin, and Hennessy are just some notable racehorses who won at the highest level on dirt, but were also well bred for turf, and their offspring have been superior on grass.

I coined the phrase "hidden turf" or "HT" to designate sires who were known for their success as dirt runners but who were bred to love grass. Runners by these sires were subsequently referred to as having the "hidden turf factor." Runners who had multiple grass influences in their pedigree, primarily through the sire and damsire, were designated as HT2 (grass on top and bottom).

Summer Doldrums, who was on the Triple Crown trail earlier this year, has found a new home on grass. After finishing a sharp second in his turf debut in the Straight Deal Stakes, Summer Doldrums won the Colonial Turf Cup Stakes and is a leading contender for Saturday's $1omillion Virginia Derby, because he should also relish 1 1/4 miles. Summer Doldrums is just one of many examples of how switching surfaces sometimes results in a different animal. His success on grass is not surprising, considering his sire is Street Cry, an HT sire by a European grass champion, Machiavellian, out of a mare by European champion Troy.

Sunriver, who won the Peter Pan Stakes and finished third in the Florida Derby and Belmont Stakes last year, has been reborn this year at 4, winning both of his grass starts impressively, including the Bowling Green Handicap last weekend. A full brother to two-time champion Ashado, he is by Saint Ballado, a versatile stallion who sired winners on all surfaces, and is out of a mare by Mari's Book, a son of the great turf influence Northern Dancer.

Circular Quay, winner of the Hopeful Stakes and Louisiana Derby, has been a disappointment this year, finishing out of the money in the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes. He will now make his grass debut in the Virginia Derby. By an HT sire, Thunder Gulch, and with Belong to Me, Shadeed, and Round Table up close in his pedigree, Circular Quay is certainly bred to excel on turf, but his connections have picked a tough spot to try a new surface.

Nobiz Like Shobiz, the Wood Memorial Stakes winner who disappointed in the Kentucky Derby, returned to finish second to Any Given Saturday in the Dwyer Stakes, and he, too, was seen training recently on the turf at Belmont. If his trainer, Barclay Tagg, chooses to try him on grass, the results should be good. Nobiz Like Shobiz is by Albert the Great, who won five major stakes (Dwyer Stakes, Jockey Club Gold Cup, Suburban, Brooklyn, and Widener handicaps) on dirt, but who was well bred for grass. Albert the Great is by an HT sire, Go for Gin (Cormorant-His Majesty-Ribot sire line), and thus is an HT sire. In addition to Albert the Great on top, Nobiz Like Shobiz has Storm Cat, Halo, and the powerful grass influence Herbager in his dam's pedigree. Nobiz Like Shobiz should really enjoy turf.

Sightseeing, third in the Dwyer, has also been working on turf, and trainer Shug McGaughey, who has had success switching many of his runners from dirt to turf, most notably Lure and Good Reward, has good reason to try Sightseeing on turf.

Sightseeing is by Pulpit, a versatile stallion who gets winners on all surfaces. As good as his runners are on dirt, however, the majority have a preference for grass. Sightseeing gets a double dose of hidden turf (HT2) from his damsire, the renowned stamina influence Pleasant Colony (by His Majesty). Sightseeing may finally live up to his potential when he goes to grass.

It is highly unlikely we will ever see Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense on turf, because when you are a champion at 2 and then win the Kentucky Derby, there is little reason to switch surfaces in this country. Like Summer Doldrums, however, he definitely has the pedigree for grass. In addition to his HT sire, Street Cry, Street Sense also has grass influences Dixieland Band and His Majesty up close in his pedigree. It's a no-brainer that Hard Spun would love turf, and he just may get a chance down the road to try it. By a superior turf influence, Danzig, he is out of a Turkoman mare, and his second damsire is the renowned grass influence Roberto.

Other 3-year-olds who may not see action on grass but are well bred for the surface are Stormello (Stormy Atlantic out of a Carson City mare with Lyphard as his second damsire); Cowtown Cat (Distorted Humor out of a Storm Cat mare); Tiago (Pleasant Tap out of a Stop the Music mare); Sam P. (Cat Thief out of an Affirmed mare, with Prince John as his second damsire); and particularly, Teuflesberg (Johannesburg out of a Devil's Bag mare).