08/20/2006 12:00AM

Spa Stakes Play for Sunday

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Don't look for any hypothetical tickets here today. I've just gotten back from the Jockey Club Round Table to find that all of today's races are off the turf, even the featured John's Call Stakes, which I had wrongly assumed would stay on the grass even if it were soft. For a card with a $101 pick-six carryover that had ended with three grass races, it's time for some quick and serious re-handicapping.

So instead, let's simply reframe today's last three races under their current conditions.

(Days like this, by the way, are one of the many reasons to consider using Formulator software. You can re-print the past performances for off-the-grass races with all the scratched horses removed, which makes life a lot easier than flipping through page after page with only one or two horses left in the race.)

Race 8: The John's Call now goes at 1 3/16 miles on the dirt instead of 1 5/8 miles on the grass and there are five scratches to bring the field to eight. Four of the original grass entrants and the four main-track-onlies. Don't necessarily look only at the dirt entrants - three of the four horses who were entered for grass have lifetime Beyer tops of 94 or better in dirt races, about the same as the MTO's. It's also possible that some of the original grass entrants were entered for main-track-only without declaring so, since this allows them to get more inward post positions. For example, Auguri, who has run nine straight dirt races and hasn't been on the grass in two years, was entered in the body of the race and gets to start from post 3 whereas a main-track-only entry would have landed him in one of the four outside posts.

Race 9: This N2x allowance for fillies scheduled for a mile on the grass now becomes a sprint at seven furlongs on the dirt, and scratches have reduced the entries from 14 to 6, three who were entered for grass and three main-track entrants. The remaining runners, from the rail out, are #'s 2,7,1a,10, 12 and 13.

Race 10: The finale, a statebred filly maiden race carded for 1 1/16 miles on the grass, now goes at 1 1/8 miles on the dirt. The good (or bad) news is that there's still a field of 11, 8 of which have at least tried the dirt once. Crusader's Code and Alley Singer, who ran second and third going nine furlongs in the slop when this same group was rained off the grass July 28, figure to be the favorites along with Treasured Song, who made a decent slop debut in a sprint earlier on that card.

Time to get back to work.