06/23/2005 12:00AM

Turf Cup an 11-horse scramble


A highly competitive field of 11 3-year-olds runs Saturday in the inaugural Colonial Turf Cup, with $500,000 on the line and potentially $5 million down the road.

It's hard to pick out a clear-cut favorite in the 1 3/16-mile turf race, which is the first leg of a four-race series that awards a total of $5 million in bonuses and purses to any horse that wins all four legs. The other races are the July 16 Virginia Derby at Colonial, the Aug. 13 Secretariat Stakes at Arlington Park, and the Oct. 29 Breeders' Cup Turf at Belmont Park.

Sweeping the four races is a tall task, but several horses in the Turf Cup field have the potential to improve over the summer and fall.

The two most impressive entrants in the Turf Cup are , a Bill Mott-trained son of Rahy who just missed in the Grade 3 Hill Prince Stakes at Belmont Park in his last start. Both have the tactical running style to capitalize on what should be an honest early pace and a quick sprint to the wire.

figures to grab the lead out of the gate, but he would have to improve on his come-home times or be allowed to loaf early to ward off late challenges from a handful of good closers in the field.

One likely closer is , who is coming off a sharp allowance win after failing to fire in the Forerunner Stakes at Keeneland. Interpatation won the Grade 3 Palm Beach Stakes at Gulfstream this year, and is the only horse in the field with a graded stakes win.

Criminal Mind and Wall Street Scandal will also draw attention. Rider Cornelio Velasquez will stay on the Stanley Hough-trained Criminal Mind rather than on Classic Campaign. Wall Street Scandal is seeking to establish turf form after knocking heads with good 3-year-olds on dirt this year.

El Viaje, Mad Adam, Spring House, and Exceptional Ride fill out the field. Crown Point is also entered, but he is likely to go in the Kent Breeders' Cup Stakes at Delaware Park the same day, according to the Colonial Downs racing office.