09/11/2002 11:00PM

Something slightly different: Turf racing country-style


Far from the bustle of Kentucky Cup Day at Turfway, the annual seven-day meet at Kentucky Downs gets under way Saturday at the turf-only track in Franklin, Ky.

The meet starts with four Kentucky Downs races being interspersed into the 10-race Turfway card, making for a 14-race Saturday blockbuster. The first live race from Kentucky Downs will be the second of the card, with an approximate post time of 11:20 a.m. Central. The ensuing Kentucky Downs races are the fourth, sixth, and eighth.

Conducted in a rural setting in south-central Kentucky, racing at Kentucky Downs is an unusual experience for horsemen and fans alike. With a misshapen, undulating course that encompasses nearly 1 1/2 miles in circumference, Kentucky Downs has no infield tote board or many of the amenities to which the modern racegoer is accustomed. At several points, horses racing on the Euro-style course are very far from the sparse crowds that usually attend the races, and even the in-house cameramen and race-caller Luke Kruytbosch have a difficult time staying atop the action.

"That's part of what makes it fun," said Kruytbosch. "Kentucky Downs is a nice break from the day-in, day-out racing that most people are used to."

Easily the highlight of the meet comes next Saturday when the four-race, $700,000 Kentucky Cup turf series is run for the fifth time. The races are the $300,000 Kentucky Cup Turf, the $200,000 Kentucky Cup Mile, the $200,000 Kentucky Cup Ladies Turf, and the $100,000 Kentucky Cup Turf Dash.

Three $45,000 stakes also will be run during the meet, leading off Saturday with the Pleasant Temper for fillies and mares. The others are the Yaqthan on Sunday and the Kimberlite Pipe on Sept. 22.

Jon Court, who will ride Saturday at Turfway, is the logical favorite to be leading rider. Others who will ride regularly include Willie Martinez, Justin Vitek, Marlon St. Julien, and Danny Coa.