06/20/2005 12:00AM

Two rich turf stakes vying for same horses


Owners and trainers of 3-year-old grass horses will experience an embarrassment of riches with two $500,000 stakes set for Saturday in the Mid-Atlantic region.

Delaware Park offers the Grade 3 Kent Breeders' Cup Stakes at 1 1/8 miles, while Colonial Downs runs the Colonial Turf Cup at 1 3/16 miles.

The Colonial Cup begins the Jacobs Investments' Grand Slam of Grass, which awards a $2 million bonus if a horse wins the Colonial Cup and Virginia Derby at Colonial Downs, the Secretariat at Arlington Park, and the Breeders' Cup Turf at Belmont Park.

With identical purses, similar distances, and regional proximity, the two races had six horses cross-entered: Interpatation, Spring House, Touched by Madness, Crown Point, Wallstreet Scandal,and El Viaje.

The Kent drew 15, but only 12 can run. El Viaje, a maiden who has run five times, is on the Kent also-eligible list.

With only 11 entered in the Colonial Turf Cup, El Viaje drew into the race and got the rail.

The competing stakes creates a chaotic situation for horsemen and handicappers.

"I don't understand it," said John Hennig, the trainer of Spring House. "I'd like to run in both races, about a month apart.'

On Monday, Hennig was leaning toward the Kent.

"I'll make the decision later in the week," Hennig said. "You want to pick the best spot for your horse. I don't think there's any real advantage or disadvantage to either. We'll play it out to the middle or end of the week and see who's going where."

Hennig has a live contender wherever he runs.

Spring House, owned by R.D. Hubbard, has made all five career starts on the turf with a record of 2-1-1. A son of Chester House, he most recently rallied from 10th to finish second in the Jersey Derby at Monmouth Park on May 30.

Spring House was at the mercy of the uncontested pace in that race, set by Touched by Madness, who led every step of the way over a course rated good.

"I would hope for a different situation than that," Hennig said. "The leader had a real free ride."

Hennig has been pleased with how Spring House came out of the race and the way he has trained since. The colt went five furlongs in 1:00.60 on the main track at Monmouth on Sunday.

"I feel very comfortable with where he's at right now," Hennig said.

Trainer Steve Klesaris entered Mighty Mecke in the Kent as a main-track runner. That angle worked successfully in the Nick Shuk Memorial Stakes on June 5 at Delaware, when the race came off the grass and Mighty Mecke rolled to a 2 1/2-length victory.

"At this point, we are not pointing him to any grass races," Klesaris said. "He is in as a main-track horse for the Kent. Beyond that, we will look at races like the Ohio Derby, the Dwyer, the Iowa Derby, or the Leonard Richards."