05/29/2003 12:00AM

Testify needs a bit of luck


Testify and Joe's Son Joey bring the strongest credentials into the $100,000 Turf Monster Handicap on Saturday, the first day the grass course will be open this season at Philadelphia Park.

Both sprint specialists need a fast pace and a surface that's not overly favorable to early speed in order to win the five-furlong stakes, however.

A 6-year-old trained by Randy Morse, Testify has raced almost exclusively in turf sprints at five or 5 1/2 furlongs the past two years. But he's a come-from-behind runner who needs a clean trip in order to weave his way from near the back of the pack.

Testify won the Grade 3 Aegon Turf Sprint at Churchill Downs last year and finished a fast-closing third, missing by just a length, when he attempted to repeat in the 2003 Aegon earlier this month. Earlier this year, Testify had a near-miss in the Grade 3 Shakertown at Keeneland and won the Houston Turf Sprint Cup at Sam Houston.

Joe's Son Joey was first or second in all four of his starts last year, including a win with a 100 Beyer Speed Figure in the 2002 Turf Monster. Although he has been off since last July, Joe's Son Joey showed the ability to fire fresh when he returned from a layoff of nearly seven months and missed by a head in last year's Yankee Affair at Gulfstream Park. His trainer, Tim Hills, does extremely well with horses returning from long layoffs.

Like Testify, Joe's Son Joey does his best running from off the pace, but he has enough tactical speed to lay within two or three lengths of the front-runners.

If the grass course is playing to speed, Bop will be dangerous. Last year, Bop came within .01 of a second of tying a world record when he won the Pennsylvania Governor's Cup Handicap at Penn National in 54.61 seconds. In two starts this year, Bop came back from a six-month layoff and won the Yankee Affair at Gulfstream with a 105 Beyer, then pressed a hot pace in the Aegon before fading late.

The horse for the course is the seemingly ageless Sport D'hiver. Now 11, Sport D'Hiver has 19 lifetime wins in turf sprints, including 5 of 14 at Philly Park. He was no factor in last year's Turf Monster, but closed out his season with three wins and a second, beaten only a nose by Bop in the Governor's Cup.