12/12/2006 1:00AM

Turf mares try to switch to synthetic

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. - How the turf mares Blue Cay and Vatchesvendetta handle the transition to racing on a synthetic surface is likely to determine the outcome of an optional claimer for California-breds at Hollywood Park on Thursday.

Both Blue Cay and Vatchesvendetta have run well on turf in recent starts, but have not raced on Hollywood Park's new synthetic surface. Judging from the way they are training, the experiment is worth a gamble, according to their respective trainers.

The optional claimer carries a purse of $46,000 and is run at 1 1/16 miles.

Blue Cay, who may go favored, was promoted from second to first after being bothered during a $32,000 claiming race at a mile on turf at the Oak Tree at Santa Anita meeting on Oct. 12, her most recent start. It was the third win of the year for the 5-year-old Blue Cay, who was claimed for $40,000 at Hollywood Park last May by a partnership and trainer Mike Mitchell.

Mitchell said he has observed other trainers having success with their turf horses on the synthetic track, "So why not try it? She works great on it. I want see how she does."

Mitchell worries that Blue Cay has class limits. She did win an optional claimer at Golden Gate Fields last April, but has run strictly in claimers in six subsequent starts.

Vatchesvendetta has just one victory in 23 starts, but did finish in front of Blue Cay on Oct. 12, only to be disqualified and placed fourth. In her last start, an allowance race for statebreds here on Nov. 30, she closed from last in a field of seven to finish a game second.

"She was trapped the whole race," trainer Barry Abrams said.

Vatchesvendetta has made one start on dirt in her career, but was unplaced. Abrams is eager to try her on the synthetic surface.

"If she likes the track, she can win," Abrams said. "She's feeling good, and the competition is not as tough as it was before."

The race has drawn a field of nine, but trainer Marty Jones said on Tuesday that top contender Monkey Face is likely to scratch.

Other contenders are Valley Storm, a 4-year-old filly who beat maidens in a one-mile turf race here on Nov. 15 in her sixth career start, and Mamita Chula, who was second in the CTBA Marian Stakes at Fairplex Park in September.