09/11/2002 11:00PM

Trip is horse for course

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FLORENCE, Ky. - Three trips to Turfway have resulted in three stakes wins for Trip. So when the mare starts Saturday, it will be difficult for horseplayers not to brand her a horse for the course.

Moreover, Trip comes off a sharp win in her last start at Saratoga and will have the popular Pat Day aboard when she runs in the secondary feature of the Kentucky Cup program, the $200,000 Turfway Breeders' Cup Stakes. In addition, "she's trained about as good as a horse can train lately," her trainer, Shug McGaughey, said Thursday from Belmont Park.

That combination of factors seems likely to make Trip, a Lord at War mare bred and owned by Claiborne Farm, a solid favorite to repeat as winner of the 1 1/16-mile, Grade 3 race. Seven fillies and mares will oppose Trip, who will be making her first start at Turfway for McGaughey. Her three previous stakes wins were for former trainer Frank Brothers.

At 3, Trip won the Bourbonette Stakes at Turfway. At 4, she easily won the Fairway Fun in the spring, then the Turfway B.C. in the fall. Now 5, she was turned over to McGaughey last winter, with Claiborne president Seth Hancock reminding the trainer of her preference for the Turfway strip.

"It wasn't like Seth was telling me to run her at Turfway, only to make me aware of how well she'd done there in the past," said McGaughey, who will fly in from New York to saddle Trip and his other Cup starter, Pure Prize in the Classic. "This race has actually been part of the game plan for a while."

If Trip has somehow lost her fondness for Turfway in the past year, then Mystic Lady or Magic Storm seem the most likely candidates for a minor upset. Mystic Lady has earned more than $1 million in 21 starts for owner Lee Lewis and trainer Mark Hennig, while Magic Storm is an up-and-coming 3-year-old coming off a gutsy score in the Monmouth Oaks for trainer D. Wayne Lukas.

Other contenders include Happily Unbridled, Softly, and Miss Pickums.

Sprint: It's often a springboard

If ever a race could be called an overachiever, it's the Kentucky Cup Sprint. Considering the six-furlong Sprint offers a relatively small purse and is restricted to 3-year-olds, it seems incongruent that it has produced such a power-packed roster of champions.

Reraise, Caller One, and Snow Ridge are the most recent examples of horses who have used the Sprint as a springboard to major feats. Earlier winners include horses who now are promising young sires, such as End Sweep, Lord Carson, and Appealing Skier.

More than $150,000 is on the line for the 11 horses entered in the Grade 2 Kentucky Cup Sprint. Sky Terrace, a miler turning back following an eight-week layoff, could be a lukewarm favorite, but a half-dozen others are capable of prevailing in what shapes up as a highly competitive race.

Bold Truth, a late-running Seattle Slew colt trained by John T. Ward Jr., will be making his first start since recovering from a lung infection diagnosed after a third-place finish in the Aug. 3 Amsterdam at Saratoga.

"This race serves as an excellent fall-back option for us," said Ward. "I know speed can always be tough at Turfway, but I think this colt will put in a beautiful late run Saturday."

Juvenile: Three stand out

From eight starters, the $100,000 Kentucky Cup Juvenile seems to quickly boil down to three major contenders: Private Gold, Vindication, and Boston Park.

Private Gold, favorably drawn in post 2 for Day and trainer Pat Byrne, may have a slight edge because of the 1 1/16-mile distance of the Grade 3 Juvenile.

"We've really been looking forward to stretching him out," said Byrne.

Vindication is trained by Bob Baffert, who is exceptionally deep in 2-year-olds this year. "He's one of our good ones," said Baffert.

Boston Park, third in the Sapling in his last start, will try to emulate his sire, Boston Harbor, who won the 1996 Juvenile for Overbrook Farm and trainer D. Wayne Lukas.

Juvenile Filly: Ruby's Reception fave

The Juvenile's counterpart, the $100,000 Kentucky Cup Juvenile Fillies, figures to have Ruby's Reception as the favorite. Ruby's Reception, a gray filly who drew the rail in a field of nine, has won 3 of 4 career starts for trainer Larry Jones.

Other contenders in the one-mile race include the Baffert-trained Atlantic Ocean, who achieved industry fame even before making her first start by being pinhooked from a $31,000 yearling into a $1.9 million 2-year-old.