04/21/2006 12:00AM

Sur La Tete all alone at finish

Pat Lang Photography
Sur La Tete and jockey Christopher Read navigate a jump on their way to a 10-length victory in the Royal Chase for the Sport of Kings, a Grade 1 race.

LEXINGTON, Ky. - Friday's ninth running of the Royal Chase for the Sport of Kings Stakes at Keeneland was billed as a three-horse matchup among Sur La Tete, Erin Go Bragh, and two-time Eclipse Award winner McDynamo.

In the end, it essentially became a one-horse race. Sur La Tete dominated the Royal Chase for the Sport of Kings, a Grade 1 steeplechase, while Erin Go Bragh and McDynamo didn't even finish. Erin Go Bragh lost his rider, Matthew McCarron, at the ninth of 13 jumps, and McDynamo was pulled up in the stretch when soundly beaten.

That left Sur La Tete in a position to coast home 10 lengths in front of runner-up Mauritania and third-place Feeling So Pretty, who were separated by a neck. Capital Peak was the only other starter that completed the eight-horse race.

Winning trainer Neil Morris said soft course conditions and a heavy downpour that took place during the race played to the strength of Sur La Tete, who stalked the pace before taking command on the final turn.

"We thought it was going to be a bit more of a technical chess game, and then it started raining and it became a test of stamina," he said.

Sur La Tete, an 8-year-old gelded son of Sky Classic, won the Royal Chase in his first start of 2006. Last year he went 2 for 3, with his one loss being a second in this race behind Hirapour, who did not compete in Friday's running.

"He's thrown in races like this before," said rider Christopher Read.

Sur La Tete raced about 2 1/2 miles on a course labeled soft in 4:56.34, paying $5.20 as the second choice behind McDynamo. He carried 158 pounds under the handicap conditions of the Royal Chase, second behind the 166 pounds that McDynamo carried.

Silver Crown has winning habit

From the middle of 2004 through the summer 2005, Silver Crown was a filly who struggled to win. Winless in 12 starts from August of 2004 through September of last year, she finally rebounded by winning the Dr. A.B. Leggio Memorial Stakes at Louisiana Downs on Dec. 3.

The win may have woken her up. Racing in a $67,000 allowance in Friday's sixth race, her first start since the Leggio, Silver Crown wore down a loose-on-the-lead front-runner in Born to Dance to notch her second consecutive victory.

Confidently ridden by James Graham, Silver Crown stalked the pace in second and gradually inched past the leader through a hard-fought stretch run. She won by three-quarters of a length, racing six furlongs in 1:12.11 over a tiring racetrack labeled sloppy.

Silver Crown ($7), a 5-year-old daughter of Distorted Humor, won her sixth race in 22 starts for the Russell Reineman Stable and trainer Frank Springer.

Born to Dance held second, a neck in front of a fast-closing Eccellenza.

Purses high, but entries low

Despite the fact that average daily purses this meet are expected to surpass $600,000, entries continue to be light at Keeneland.

Racing secretary Ben Huffman said smaller fields could be partially attributed to Fair Grounds not running its full meet this year following damage from Hurricane Katrina. Although Fair Grounds ran an abbreviated meet at Louisiana Downs from late November to January, that meet did not transition into the Keeneland meet as well as past Fair Grounds meets, which had ended in March.

Many horsemen who attended the Fair Grounds meet at Louisiana Downs then went to the Oaklawn Park meet - which ended this past Saturday, in the midst of the current Keeneland meeting.

In one example of how short entries have been, the track used a $5,000 claiming race that was carded as an "extra" to help fill Sunday's card. No races for less than a $10,000 claiming price were written in the condition book.