10/18/2006 11:00PM

Surface switch can't stop Society Hostess


LEXINGTON, Ky. - Society Hostess surely would have been the favorite even if Keeneland had not made a rare switch Thursday by taking the Franklin County Stakes off the turf course.

Whether Society Hostess also would have prevailed on turf will never be known. As it was, the New York invader made a sizzling last-to-first run on Polytrack to capture the $113,100 Franklin County as the favorite under Garrett Gomez, rendering the change of surface moot.

"I wanted to kind of mid-pack, and for a second I thought I might've left her with a little much to do," said Gomez. "But once she found her stride, she really kicked in. She has a great way of going."

On a soggy and foggy day, Gilded Gold took the early lead in the Franklin County, which was lengthened from 5 1/2 to six furlongs with the switch to Polytrack. Leaving the far turn, as More Than Pretty and Our Love began to fade, Bright Gold moved up to challenge Gilded Gold. Meanwhile, Gomez was deftly guiding his mount between rivals, and after angling out for the drive, Society Hostess was up to win by two lengths over Bright Gold, with Gilded Gold another neck back in third in a field of nine fillies and mares.

Society Hostess, a 4-year-old Seeking the Gold filly owned by Moyglare Stud Farm and trained by Christophe Clement, returned $5.80 after finishing in 1:09.59. She now has won 4 of 5 starts in the United States after starting her career in Ireland.

The transferring of the race came shortly after the first breakdown of the 10-day-old meet occurred when Rutledge Ballado, ridden by Julien Leparoux, went lame in her left front leg after winning the sixth race at one mile on turf. Leparoux said he noticed something awry only after pulling up the filly and that he did not believe the injury to be of a catastrophic nature.

Otherwise, it was a banner afternoon for Leparoux, who rode four winners to take a 19-18 lead at day's end over Rafael Bejarano atop the fall-meet jockey standings.

Because the Franklin County was moved to Polytrack after multiple-race wagers already had been accepted, the race was declared an "all win" for the purposes of every affected wager (pick three, pick four, pick six).

Keeneland officials said they believed it was the first time a stakes race was moved off the turf since the course was installed in 1985. Lesser races have been switched off, albeit not with great frequency.

Dowager draws big field

Yet another big field of stakes horses has been rounded up by the Keeneland racing office. The $150,000 Dowager Stakes, a 1 1/2-mile turf race for fillies and mares, is the highlight of a nine-race Sunday program chock full of big fields.

The Dowager, which will be limited to 10 runners, figures to have Louve Royale as the favorite for the familiar tandem of trainer Patrick Biancone and Leparoux. Twelve were entered, with Bond Deal and Victory Lap relegated to an also-eligibles list.

From the hedge out, the main body of the race is Louve Royale, Country Fair, Bottiglia, Cozy Gain, Sister Star, Quiero Ganar, Hermance, Moon Berry, Burren Rose, and Mpenzi.

Gomez here more often than not

Gomez, the nation's leading jockey in earnings this year, was supposed to remain primarily in New York this month, but, through Friday, will have ridden at Keeneland for seven of the first 11 cards of the meet. "We didn't really plan to be there so much, but that's the way it worked out," said Ron Anderson, Gomez's agent.

After riding in the California Cup series next Saturday, Gomez will be back in Kentucky to ride throughout Breeders' Cup week at Churchill Downs, which opens its fall meet Sunday, Oct. 29. Gomez already has secured the mount on Tiz Wonderful, a major contender in one of the opening-day features, the $100,000 Iroquois Stakes for 2-year-olds.

Tiz Wonderful, trained by Scott Blasi, earned a 99 Beyer Speed Figure when he won by 12 1/2 lengths in his career debut on Sept. 2 at Saratoga. Anderson said he is still seeking a mount for the sister race to the Iroquois, the $100,000 Pocahontas.

* The 52-1 triumph by Wellofaprize in Wednesday's seventh race yielded the second-highest win mutuel ($107.20) of the meet, and the victory by Bee Charmer ($8.80) in the featured eighth race was the first on this circuit for trainer Michael Matz since a colt named Barbaro captured the 132nd Kentucky Derby on May 6.