06/04/2007 11:00PM

Sunriver giving turf a shot


ELMONT, N.Y. - Third-level allowance races don't come much tougher than Thursday's eighth race, a $50,000 event scheduled for 1 1/8 miles on the inner turf.

Among the 10 older males in the main body of the race, seven are stakes winners, including Sunriver, a full brother to champion mare Ashado who was a hot commodity after winning the Peter Pan and finishing a solid third in last year's Belmont Stakes. Sunriver has lost three races by a combined 50 lengths since then, however, so trainer Todd Pletcher has opted to try him on the turf. And why not, since he is also a full brother to Saint Stephen, a six-time winner on turf, including in the Henry Clark Stakes at Pimlico.

Sunriver, who breezed a half-mile on the inner turf Sunday, will need to reproduce his top form to be competitive. The salty field includes Rock Lobster and Silver Whistle, each a Grade 3 winner on turf last year; a trio of New York-bred stakes winners in Dave, Golden Commander, and Classic Pack; Nergal, a fast-closing winner of in his U.S. debut at Keeneland; and Mystic Ruler, a lightly raced 4-year-old who has been in sharp form this year for trainer Rick Violette Jr.

Mystic Ruler showed high promise winning a first-level allowance on yielding turf at Belmont last summer, and he returned from a layoff to finish second at Gulfstream Park in his first start this year. Violette then put blinkers on Mystic Ruler, and the gelding overcame post 12 to win his second-level condition with a determined late rally under Edgar Prado.

"I kiddingly said to Edgar when we drew the 12 hole, 'I don't want you on the fence on the first turn,' and that's where he wound up," said Violette. "The blinkers helped him quicken a little bit, so he'll give that little burst of speed when you need it."

In his first try at this level last time out, Mystic Ruler raced wide at Keeneland and rallied for third. This will be his first start past 1o1/16 miles.

"He lost a little position outside on the turn at Keeneland, but he quickened late and was running by everybody," said Violette. "This is a tough race, and you can make a case for a lot of horses. It's a matter of who gets a trip and moves forward. I think a mile and an eighth helps him. He'll eat it up."

Also in the main body are Cosmic Kris and Thunder Pass. The two also-eligibles are General Jumbo and Trippi's Storm.