07/11/2007 11:00PM

Turf juveniles present a juicy opportunity


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Juveniles were the center of attention last Saturday at Churchill Downs with the running of the Grade 3 Debutante and Grade 3 Bashford Manor stakes, won by Rated Fiesty and Kodiak Kowboy, respectively.

This Saturday the 2-year-old stakes action, albeit on a smaller scale, shifts to a different region, when Louisiana Downs contests the $50,000 Princess Stakes and the $50,000 Minstrel Stakes - two of four stakes on an attractive 11-race card at the Bossier City, La., track.

Neither race offers the prestige of the Debutante or Bashford Manor, nor do they offer any big-name participants. The races are intriguing, however, in part because they are being run at five furlongs on turf.

With many of the participants lacking experience on turf, determining who will take to the surface requires guesswork. But it also provides the opportunity for profits - if one guesses right.

I plan to play the same angle in both races, taking horses trying turf for the first time that are by "hidden" turf sires. By that I mean sires who have quietly established themselves as being quality grass studs but who have gone unnoticed by many horseplayers because they never raced on turf.

The first chance to play this angle Saturday at Louisiana Downs is in the Princess Stakes, the seventh race on the card, which drew Arlington Park invader American Prize. A winner from just off the pace in her only start, on June 1, she is a daughter of Pure Prize, a deceptively good turf sire.

According to Daily Racing Form statistics, his offspring have won 7 of 40 turf starts in North America, including 3 of 17 in their first start on the surface. Although no one would confuse those numbers with those of Danehill or other dominant grass sires, these figures from Pure Prize are better than what one might expect from a son of Storm Cat who never raced on turf and whose lone stakes victory came in the 2002 Kentucky Cup Classic.

As for Pure Prize's representative in the Princess, American Prize, she gives the impression of a filly who might take to the turf. Besides her win at Arlington over Polytrack - which some consider to be a "tweener" surface, between turf and dirt - she is a half-sister to Rush Rush (by More Than Ready), a two-time winner on grass.

I also like that her connections confidently ship her down from Chicago to pursue a stakes. The filly is owned by Vinery, the farm that stands Pure Prize, and stakes success from American Prize would boost his sire's statistics, increasing his commercial appeal.

American Prize's trainer, Steve Asmussen, will deservedly attract mutuel attention, but my hope is that the filly's relatively modest debut Beyer Speed Figure of 57 will result in the public overlooking her a little. Others, such as Shedoesrock and Top Story, have run loftier Beyers in the upper 60s.

Those two are by predominantly dirt sires - Storm Boot and Carson City, respectively - so perhaps on grass American Prize can close the gap.

If others take money, Cool Catz may be value

Two races later in the Minstrel Stakes for the boys, Cool Catz is the choice on the basis of his talent and because he is by another hidden turf sire. An eye-catching winner of his debut at Lone Star going 4 1/2 furlongs on dirt, he is bred to handle the switch to turf racing, being by Tactical Cat.

Although Tactical Cat never raced on turf, his offspring have shown the ability to handle the footing, winning 13 percent of their first races on grass. That may not seem like an out-of-the-ordinary win rate, but it is quite respectable when you consider that, on the whole, Tactical Cat has not been bred to the accomplished turf mares that often go to sires who were top racehorses on grass.

Breeders and handicappers alike remember Tactical Cat more for his achievements on dirt, which included a win in the Grade 1 Hollywood Futurity in 1998.

Cool Catz does not have as strong of a grass pedigree on his dam's side. A multiple stakes winner on dirt, his dam was unplaced in both starts on turf, and her lone foal that tried grass racing, Zelna (by Roy), ran poorly in her only turf race.

Cool Catz still remains a confident selection because he is fast. Bumped and steadied leaving the gate in his debut April 19, he showed brilliant speed to quickly burst to the lead en route to a 3 1/2-length victory, posting an 81 Beyer.

He beat some quality juveniles, too - including third-place Gold Coyote, who has since won two straight, including the July 7 Texas Stallion Stakes by 10 lengths at Lone Star.

Off such a flashy debut, I'm expecting Cool Catz to get bet, but the presence of Kentucky shipper Preachin Man and the Asmussen-trained Galiano will take some of the betting public's money and perhaps allow Cool Catz to go off at 2-1 or so.