12/17/2007 12:00AM

Storm dampens weekend's racing

EmailTurfway Park officials have maintained that Polytrack does not render the track impervious to problems typically associated with winter. That point was driven home last weekend on two different occasions.

A 12-race Saturday program was compromised by the scratches of 23 horses, with the majority of them unable to reach the track because of hazardous road conditions. A nine-race Sunday program was canceled after just two races, with jockeys and management citing high winds and wind chill.

Racing officials at Turfway in Florence, Ky., have estimated that a little less than half of a typical program is made up of horses shipping from Louisville, Lexington, or other off-site locations. When a storm of freezing rain hit northern Kentucky on Saturday morning, enveloping much of the 75-mile corridor that connects Turfway with Keeneland and the Thoroughbred Training Center in Lexington, travel was not feasible.

One of the horses that didn't make the trip from Lexington was Slew's Tizzy, the morning-line favorite in the Saturday feature, the Prairie Bayou Stakes.

"I hated scratching when the horse is so right, and I really wanted to run him on the Polytrack," said Greg Fox, the colt's trainer. "But the conditions were horrible on the road. Getting the horses there and back wasn't worth the risk."

Fox, who will run Slew's Tiznow in the CashCall Futurity at Hollywood Park this weekend, said he now will probably wait until late January for a race for Slew's Tizzy.

Slew's Tizzy was one of four scratches from the Prairie Bayou, which was scheduled to be run with a field of 12 but was reduced to just eight starters. One of the other Lexington-based starters, Catman Running, also was scratched because of road conditions.

Until Polytrack came into use in September 2005 at Turfway, the track was dogged by numerous cancellations each winter. Some were attributable to local conditions that prevented horses and/or people from making it to the track, or to other weather factors, but other cancellations were because of track condition. Although there was at least one cancellation last winter because of problems with Polytrack "balling up," the cancellations due to track condition have largely diminished.

Kettle Hill caps year for Wilkes

Kettle Hill gave trainer Ian Wilkes and his family an early Christmas present when he pulled a mild upset in the Prairie Bayou. With Bill Troilo aboard, Kettle Hill rallied to win by 3 1/4 lengths over favored Drilling for Oil, returning $10.80 as third choice.

For Wilkes, who has been at Palm Meadows in South Florida since last Wednesday, the victory by Kettle Hill capped an incredible year that will end with a vacation in Australia, where he and his wife, Tracey, are from.

"We haven't been back home in six years," Wilkes said. "We'll get there Christmas morning and stay for two weeks. We're excited."

Wilkes, trainer Carl Nafzger's assistant and business partner, was near the forefront of the Street Sense story for much of this year. Together they will oversee a combined 35-horse stable in Florida this winter, with a few more horses staying behind at the Skylight training center just east of Louisville.

Wilkes said Kettle Hill, a 3-year-old gelding by Pleasant Tap, will get "about six weeks off" before gearing up for a 4-year-old campaign.

* The highlight of the coming weekend at Turfway is the $50,000 Gowell Stakes for 2-year-old fillies. The six-furlong race will be run Saturday. The track will be dark on Dec. 24 and 25 before running seven consecutive days, through Jan. 1.