11/13/2003 1:00AM

Unknown factors cloud Juvenile


HOUSTON - Questions concerning either distance or surface surround each of the top contenders in Saturday night's $150,000 Sam Houston Texas Juvenile, making the 1 1/16-mile stakes one of the most attractive betting races on the $550,000 Texas Champions Day card.

The Juvenile is the lone open company race on Sam Houston's richest program of the meet, which also features seven divisional stakes for Texas-breds. Among the top horses set to compete are Most Feared, who will face older rivals in the $100,000 Star of Texas; Eagle Lake, who will be favored in the $50,000 San Jacinto; and There Goes Rocket, who runs in the $50,000 Groovy.

Korbyn Gold, a two-time stakes winner, should rule as the favorite in the Juvenile based on his second-place finish last out in the Grade 3 Iroquois at Churchill Downs. He will be making his two-turn debut but from a class standpoint looks attractive, as he has been competitive against the quality colts Cactus Ridge and The Cliff's Edge.

Steve Asmussen, who has won previous runnings of the Juvenile with Fifty Stars and Snuck In, trains Korbyn Gold for Houston-based owner Bill Heiligbrodt. Jeremy Beasley will ride.

Oncearoundtwice brings a surface question into the Juvenile. He is proven around two turns, but on turf. He won a 7 1/2-furlong allowance on the grass in August and then placed second in a pair of two-turn turf races: the $100,000 El Joven at Retama Park and the $100,000 Bourbon County at Keeneland, where he broke from post 10.

Oncearoundtwice has made two dirt starts. He finished off the board on a muddy track against straight maidens in his debut and then won a $25,000 claiming maiden race in the slop.

"I don't know how he'll run on dirt," said John Locke, who trains Oncearoundtwice for TBD Owners. "He's never really run on a dry track.

"He acts like he can get a distance, at least on turf. Whether he can on dirt remains to be seen."

Seneca Summer, who is shooting for his fourth straight win, will be making his two-turn debut in the Juvenile. He won a conditioned claimer by 14 1/2 lengths two starts ago before stepping up to capture a division of the $125,000 Texas Stallion Stakes at Retama on Oct 4.

Asmussen has given the mount to Ted Gondron.

Another horse making his two-turn debut is Intrinsic Worth, who rallied for third in a seven-furlong conditioned allowance at Keeneland on Oct. 25. He will remove blinkers Saturday

The field is completed by America America, a filly, and Red Rock Creek.