08/09/2009 11:00PM

A Unique Treasure happy on turf

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OCEANPORT, N.J. - There weren't many believers when A Unique Treasure made his turf debut last month at 25-1. He will have more supporters Wednesday at Monmouth Park following a strong second in that first grass attempt.

Trained by Jane Cibelli, A Unique Treasure faces nine rivals in the first-level $22,000 optional claimer at 5 1/2 furlongs.

Tryan and A Unique Treasure, both 4-year-old geldings, are the only horses in the $41,000 race not carrying the claiming tag.

"We had always wanted to try him on the turf," Cibelli said. "His dam was a five-eighths turf specialist."

The dam, Curious Treasures, had success on this circuit in grass sprint stakes. In 2000, she captured the Egret Stakes at the Meadowlands and missed by a neck in the Ocean Hotel Stakes, her turf debut. She was owned by Laurence Foggle, A Unique Treasure's breeder and owner.

"We had discussed it and obviously it paid off," Cibelli said of running A Unique Treasure on turf. "He ran a huge race. He's coming into the race well. We're looking for another big effort from him."

A Unique Treasure posted a career-best 81 Beyer Speed Figure last time, losing by 1 3/4 lengths to Big Dealer, who came back to win his subsequent start.

A Unique Treasure ran well here last summer, posting his maiden win before running third in a first-level allowance. That was his last race until March at Gulfstream Park.

"He had lots of little problems and was sore in his back," Cibelli said. "Nothing major, but you put them all together and it becomes a bigger problem. He was never really right. The turf will help keep him healthy."

Cibelli allows a mild second guess that the surface switch should have come sooner. Some of the reluctance stemmed from the fact that some horses, after they go green, are no longer effective on the main track.

"Mr. Foggle has so many grass horses that we were a little hesitant," Cibelli said. "He'd run well enough on the dirt, so we thought let's keep him on the dirt as long as we can."

After turning in fourths on the main track in his first two starts of the meet, A Unique Treasure was ready for the transition.

Big City Pat could be the main competition, with a second and a third in his last two races. His solid early speed should make him a contender from the outside post.