08/19/2002 11:00PM

Turkish Prize: Mr. Consistent

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DEL MAR, Calif. - Ted H. West subscribes to the theory that if you can't beat 'em, claim 'em. He was so impressed that Turkish Prize beat his Beautiful Balance at Hollywood Park on June 29 that he decided to reach in and grab Turkish Prize when he ran back on July 24.

The $50,000 claim, made on behalf of owner Jeffrey Sengara, could provide a quick return on investment. In Thursday's featured seventh race at Del Mar, Turkish Prize heads a field of long-distance turf runners in an optional-claiming event that will return about $50,000 in first-place prize money to Turkish Prize should he win.

The race has a base purse of $67,000, but since Turkish Prize is a California-bred, the state's incentive fund adds another $20,100 to the purse. That was another reason claiming Turkish Prize made financial sense to West.

"He beat Beautiful Balance, and he went by him pretty easily, and he's a tough horse to get by," West said. "We thought he was worth $50,000. And with the Cal-bred bonus for this race, he's running for $87,000."

Turkish Prize has long been one of this circuit's most consistent middle-distance, mid-level claimers on turf. He has won 10 times in 37 starts, has finished in the money 20 times, and has earned $459,119. He also has won three of his last five starts. And while most of his success has been from a mile to 1 1/16 miles, he ran second going 1 1/2 miles at Hollywood Park, which offers encouragement for Thursday's 1 3/8-mile race.

"I'd rather the race was at a mile or a mile and sixteenth, but he seems like he can handle it," West said.

Fade to Blue, who thrives at Del Mar, looms as a major player. He was third against $50,000 claimers on Aug. 3, the fourth time in five starts that he has finished in the money in an 11-furlong grass race at Del Mar.

"This is his turf course," said Fade to Blue's trainer, Nick Canani. "He's a beach sort. He likes to lay out."

The one to catch is Komistar, who finished third when racing for a $62,500 claiming price in his last two starts. There is very little speed in the race, and he is making his third start off a layoff.

Also of interest on Thursday's card is the second race, in which the highly regarded 2-year-old colts Bull Market and Vindication, both trained by Bob Baffert, head a field of six going six furlongs. Bull Market and Vindication both scored runaway victories in their debuts the first week of the meet.