08/06/2003 11:00PM

Turf course proves boost in filling race cards


SAN MATEO, Calif. - The availability of turf racing has helped fill races at the Bay Meadows Fair.

On Saturday's card, three turf races are carded with 27 entries, including 12 in a $12,500 claimer.

"Grass racing is great. Everyone in the country runs on grass the whole summer except us," said Aggie Ordonez, assistant to Brent Sumja, who saddled the winner and third-place finisher in Wednesday's first turf race of the fair season.

The lack of turf racing during the summer has long been one of the primary complaints of northern California trainers.

Bay Meadows is the only track in the area operating during the summer months that has a turf course. Santa Rosa is expected to begin construction of a turf course in time for racing next summer. Pleasanton is also looking into adding a turf course with the added attraction of keeping the course open for training year-round.

"I think it will be a big difference if they add turf courses," said trainer Sergio Ledezma, whose Maybe Rocco finished second in Wednesday's first turf race.

Both Ordonez and Ledezma say turf racing is better for horses because of the softer surface.

"It's a lot easier for them to run on," Ledezma said.

Ordonez points to Tomcolee, who ran third in Wednesday's turf race after running third at Santa Rosa in his previous start.

"Overall, physically, he was a lot brighter the day after the turf race than he was after running on dirt," Ordonez said. "He ate all his dinner after the race, which he didn't the last time he ran."

Ordonez also feels that "turf racing is such a beautiful part of the sport. It's great for fans. Horses don't have to be rushed so much because speed isn't as important as on the dirt. A lot more strategy goes into turf racing."

Sumja claimed Wednesday's turf winner, Club Forty One, for $12,500 at Solano. His first start for Sumja was also his first start on the turf. Racing for a $25,000 claiming price, he unleashed a strong kick after being blocked at the quarter pole and pulled away late.

"I wish I could say we knew he was a turf horse, but we just wanted to take a shot," Ordonez said. "It seemed like a good spot."

Mid-Peninsula draws six

Six 2-year-old fillies were nominated for Sunday's $50,000-added Mid-Peninsula Stakes at 5 1/2 furlongs.

Irish Ides, 2 for 2 with a victory in the Solano County Juvenile Fillies, and Smoke Break, second in the Cinderella Stakes at Hollywood Park on June 8, top the list. Brite Roxie, third in the Solano stakes, is also nominated.