08/19/2005 11:00PM

St Averil takes a spin on turf


DEL MAR, Calif. - 's Del Mar campaign has become an experiment for owner Stan Fulton and trainer Rafael Becerra.

After mixed results over the first half of the year, St Averil will be tried on turf for the first time in an optional claimer at a mile on grass Monday.

The race will mark St Averil's sixth start of the year. The highlights have been a win in an optional claimer for sprinters at Hollywood Park in May and a third in a productive Ack Ack Handicap at Hollywood Park on June 11. But St Averil was only third as the favorite in an optional claimer at seven furlongs here on July 22.

"We haven't had a chance to run him on turf," Becerra said. "I talked to the boss and said, 'Let's give it a try.' "

Monday's race, which carries a purse of $70,000, has just five runners, but the field includes Cheiron, winner of the $250,000 Snow Chief Stakes at Hollywood Park in April 2004; Touch the Wire, who won an optional claimer at 1 1/16 miles on dirt on July 30; and Grafton, who has run well this year but is winless in six allowance races and optional claimers.

The field also includes Spencer's Magic, who finished seventh in an optional claimer at five furlongs on turf Aug. 8. The race was his first start for owner Charles Cono and trainer Christopher Paasch, who claimed him for $50,000 at Hollywood Park in July.

Cheiron and Grafton were second and third in an optional claimer at a mile on turf July 25. Cheiron ran well that day to finish three lengths behind We All Love Aleyna. Ridden by Rene Douglas, Cheiron rallied from last to be a clear second. He will be trying to end a nine-race losing streak on Monday.

The distance of Monday's race should not pose a problem for St Averil. At 3, he won the 1 1/16-mile Santa Catalina Stakes, a Grade 2 prep to the Santa Anita Derby. After finishing second in the San Felipe Stakes and sixth in the Santa Anita Derby, St Averil was entered in the Kentucky Derby but did not start because of injury. Purchased for $500,000 as a yearling, St Averil has won 3 of 11 starts and $286,742.

"I think the distance is right for him, and I look for a good race," Becerra said. "I'm really happy with the way he's coming into it."