02/26/2009 12:00AM

Turf form scarce in La.-bred stakes

Email

Nineteen Louisiana-bred 3-year-olds were entered in a pair of grass stakes - one for females, one for males - featured on Saturday's Fair Grounds card. To say the group lacks turf accomplishment probably is saying too little, since those 19 horses have combined to win a grand total of four grass races. And horsemen with entries in the races are doing as much guessing as handicappers.

"I haven't a clue," said trainer Merrill Scherer, who has two horses for the $60,000 Gentilly, the boys' race, and a filly for the $60,000 Sarah Lane's Oates, none of whom has tried grass before. "Who can tell until they go out and do it if they can run in slop, on the inside or the outside, front or back? Just because a horse works with speed doesn't mean they show it. I just think this is an experiment."

You can hear all kinds of theories on what signals a grass horse, be it pedigree, knee action, even foot size. Some say big, flat, saucer-shaped hooves are a tell-tale. Others say such theories amount to much speculation and little edification.

"I guess I missed that day at training school where they talked about a turf foot," the late trainer Blackie Huffman once said, pointing to the tiny hooves on a filly of his who ran well on the Fair Grounds grass course.

Scherer's coupled entrants for the Gentilly, Silent Pipe and Shockin Blow, both look competitive if their dirt form transfers to turf. Shockin Blow beat Silent Pipe by six lengths in a Fair Grounds allowance race Jan. 19 and came back with a close second in the $125,000 Premier Prince on Feb. 7 at Delta, his first two-turn try. Silent Pipe, meanwhile, rebounded from the loss to his stablemate with a 5 1/4-length, two-turn allowance win of his own. Shockin Blow, a son of Doneraile Court out of a Known Fact mare, has the better-looking turf pedigree; Silent Pipe, according to Scherer, has bigger feet.

The Gentilly's two grass winners, Hear No Angel and Dabbers Chief, both are drawn on the outside. Hear No Angel, who has post 7, has two wins at the meet, including a narrow second-level Louisiana-bred turf allowance score on Feb. 2. Dabbers Chief is the real grass horse here, having made seven turf starts in England and scoring a minor maiden win before running into tougher competition. Dabbers Chief finished fourth behind Hear No Angel last out, but can be expected to improve in his second U.S. start.

The Steve Asmussen-trained Lightlightlight might wind up favored in the Sarah Lane's Oates, which will mark her turf debut if the race stays on grass. Lightlightlight has finished second to the good filly Warrior's Maid in her two most recent starts, but is no cinch to show her best at Saturday's two-turn, one-mile trip.

Tensas Palmyra only beat maidens on Jan. 31, but won a two-turn dirt race by almost 10 lengths in a fast time and could be a major factor Saturday.

Scherer's horse here is Seven Seventythree, another first-time turfer. She performed well over the Tapeta surface at Presque Isle last summer, a sign to some that a horse will handle turf. But Scherer has bad news for the foot theorists: Seven Seventythree's are tiny.