05/25/2006 11:00PM

Turf action on center stage


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - An unmistakable emphasis on turf racing will be in evidence Sunday at Churchill Downs. Although there isn't a stakes on the 10-race program, three excellent turf events, including the Top Corsage overnight handicap, should combine for a fine afternoon of racing.

The Top Corsage (race 7), scheduled for 1 1/2 miles, drew seven fillies and mares, with a Chilean import, , the starting highweight at 117 pounds. With a $70,000 purse, the Top Corsage is just a tad richer than a $68,000 turf allowance (race 4), a one-mile race that drew Anegada, who would have had to carry 119 pounds if trainer Tony Reinstedler had instead opted for the Top Corsage.

Adding to a terrific Sunday mix is a $58,000 turf allowance (race 9) that is arguably the best betting race of the day, having drawn a full and competitive field competing under second-level allowance restrictions.

As the nominal feature, the Top Corsage shapes up as a solid, if unspectacular, race. Omeya, trained by Hall of Famer Jonathan Sheppard, is a consistent mare who hasn't won in more than a year, but her winter campaign at Gulfstream Park was encouraging, and her normal effort figures to put her in the thick of things Sunday.

Probably the top threats to Omeya are , who also contested the Bewitch and finished respectably, finishing third, beaten only a length.

Some 90 minutes earlier Sunday, Anegada will make her first start in more than six months when she faces five other fillies and mares. Owned by the Kenowa Stable, Anegada ended her 4-year-old campaign with 4 wins from 5 starts before getting the winter off. She resurfaced at Oaklawn Park and has been training steadily in recent weeks at Churchill toward her return to action.

Easily the most intriguing foe for Anegada is Flying Glitter, a speedy filly who is highly accomplished on dirt but will be making her turf debut Sunday. Trained by Ronny Werner, Flying Glitter reeled off four straight wins last year, including two Grade 3 events.

The ninth race on Sunday could go any number of ways. Wise River, with Rafael Bejarano to ride, has plenty of upside, but he is a 3-year-old facing older horses for the first time. Bastille, Dayano, and Whole Nine Yards rate highly among those more seasoned opponents.