12/06/2006 1:00AM

Tony Terrific one to follow


No disrespect to the seven fillies and mares that were entered in the ninth race on Friday at Fair Grounds, but this is the time of year when 2-year-old allowance races at two turns start to bear close watching, with the Triple Crown trailhead not far down the road.

So, the featured ninth, a $35,000 optional claiming race for older females, takes a back seat to race 8, for entry-level allowance-class 2-year-olds. The 2-year-old race is carded for one mile on turf, but don't be surprised to see its winner wheel back in something like the Lecomte Stakes, the meet's first two-turn stakes for newly turned 3-year-olds.

Even if Tony Terrific fails to win Friday's eighth, his return to dirt racing probably is a matter of when, not if. Tony Terrific cleared the maiden ranks Oct. 27 on Keeneland's synthetic Polytrack, scoring a one-length win over 10 rivals that was noteworthy not just because of the swift, swooping second-turn move Tony Terrific displayed, but because it was the colt's first race.

A Stonerside Stable homebred trained by Mike Stidham, Tony Terrific also was entered this week in an entry-level dirt allowance race that failed to attract sufficient entries to be carded.

"They put up an 'extra' the same day on dirt, but it only got a couple in it," Stidham said. "We wanted to stay on the dirt, because we think he is going to be a dirt horse, but I don't have any problem with turf."

Tony Terrific is by Gone West out of the Storm Cat mare Thunder Kitten - a turf miler's pedigree indeed - and based on his debut victory, seems advanced for a horse of his age and limited experience. Breaking from post 10 at Keeneland, Tony Terrific settled well, moved up while wide when asked, and finished off his rivals with authority. Stidham said he believed a sprint prep race was not required for a horse meant to run long.

"There was no question about what the horse wanted to do, so we didn't see the need to sprint him," said Stidham. "He's kind of a narrow, angular horse that just looked like he'd be fit when he ran him, and he was pretty sharp about knowing what he was doing."

Although there are a few others in this eight-horse field who have a chance to move up in their turf debut, Citi Smoke already has done that. Racing a mile on grass at Hawthorne after three dirt sprints to start his career, Citi Smoke won a Nov. 2 maiden race by a length and turned in a solid-looking five-furlong work on the main track last weekend.