04/17/2006 11:00PM

Turf course hosts seven races on card


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - When choosing the top star of the 2006 Gulfstream Park meeting, there are many options, such as Florida Derby winner and Kentucky Derby contender Barbaro, Donn Handicap hero and Dubai World Cup runner-up Brass Hat, or Todd Pletcher, who ran away with another training title.

But ask racing secretary Dave Bailey for his choice and the answer is easy: the Gulfstream Park turf course.

The local turf course, which was rebuilt and enlarged in 2005, has gone above and beyond the call of duty this season, especially since Florida Derby Day, when filling entries has regularly proven to be a daunting task. On Thursday's card, seven of the nine races on the program, including the featured fourth event, are to be decided over the grass.

Thursday's main event, an optional $25,000 claiming race for fillies and mares, is carded at five furlongs. The race, which carries a $35,000 purse, drew six runners, three of whom have already won an entry-level allowance race at the distance during the meet.

The pace scenario figures to favor , one of two horses in the field trained by Kirk Ziadie. Royal Dove rallied from just off the lead to register a three-quarter-length victory in her season debut here March 1. She also rallied from near the rear of the pack to finish second under second-level allowance conditions at Tampa on April 1.

Ziadie will also send out , who has failed to hit the board in two starts on turf but would be the likely favorite if the race were to be moved to the main track because of rain.

A potential speed duel could develop among the horses breaking near the inside, a group that includes Cape of Good Hope, June Tune, and Caught a Slew.

Both Cape of Good Hope and June Tune led throughout to register their entry-level allowance victories over the local course. Cape of Good Hope may draw the most support of the pair, having earned a career-best 87 Beyer Speed Figure when he won a first-level allowance April 7.

has shown marked improvement since trainer Michael Collins switched her to the grass this winter. She followed her allowance win on March 22 with a close third 17 days later in the Bob Slater.

Caught a Slew wheels back on four days' rest after finishing second against $16,000 starter allowance company Saturday.