04/02/2003 12:00AM

Unrullah Bull is slight favorite despite layoff


GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas - What Friday's featured ninth race lacks in quantity it makes up for in quality. The $38,000, one-mile allowance for older horses attracted a field of only five, but all are stakes veterans.

Unrullah Bull, winner of the Grade 3 Texas Mile at last year's meet, could be a slight favorite despite not having run in over six months. The Texas Mile was Unrullah Bull's only win in 11 starts last year, though several of his subsequent losses were in sprints or on turf. Unrullah Bull has won four times at Lone Star, more than any of his rivals.

Gerard Melancon will ride for trainer Cole Norman.

Compendium, 5, is the youngest of the quintet and has been absent from the races longer than any of his rivals. Compendium last raced on Sept. 14, when he romped by over eight lengths in the Chick Lang Jr. Memorial Handicap at Retama. That win took some of the sting off his disqualification from first in the Evangeline Mile in his previous start.

Compendium can fire fresh. He won under similar allowance conditions in the opening days of the 2002 Lone Star meet following a layoff of nearly five and a half months. Corey Lanerie rides.

Maysville Slew will try and rebound from poor efforts in the Connally Breeders' Cup at Sam Houston and the Grade 3 Essex at Oaklawn. Though he's been more successful on grass the last couple seasons, Maysville Slew did win the $75,000 Arapahoe Park Handicap on dirt in September. L. A. Spider Legs and Big Numbers complete the field.

Grand Prairie Turf draws big field

A large field is expected for the first turf stakes of the meet, Saturday's $100,000 Grand Prairie Turf Challenge for 3-year-olds. The only probable starter that has won a stakes over the turf is Zarb's Music, winner of the restricted Gentilly Handicap at Fair Grounds two weeks ago. Other Fair Grounds shippers pointing for the Grand Prairie are allowance winners Commander's Affair, Gentlemen J J, Iceanwater, and Marsh. Leo's Last Hurrahy, who last year was voted Texas horse of the year at age 2, and Call Me Lefty, winner of two legs of the Texas Stallion Stakes series, are also expected to run.

New barn facility is versatile

Horsemen and other visitors to the backside this week couldn't help but notice the ongoing construction of the largest of three new barns opening for the spring Thoroughbred meet. The barn is scheduled to be completed by the weekend, and workers appeared to be meeting the deadline, as stalls were in place by midweek.

This "super" barn, unlike the other two new barns, which house 50 stalls each and resembles most others on the backside, will be multi-purpose. In addition to housing as many as 96 horses during race meets, it can be used for various horse activities. It will also serve as the quarantine facility when Lone Star hosts the 2004 Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships.

"We did some dressage shows and we've had a rodeo on the racetrack, so we've always had an interest in exploring all kinds of possibilities related to the horse," said Jeff Greco, Lone Star's general manager.

The design of the barn is modeled on the standard sizes of rodeo arenas and barrel racing arenas in the region. The only permanent fixtures in the barn are the wash stalls on all four corners. The arena is open, electricity comes from overhead, and water comes from underground.

The stalls bolt together and use each other for support. They can be assembled or taken down to accommodate a higher or smaller horse population, or removed entirely to create open space if it is needed.

"The arena is the size that you could do barrel racing, or roping, or utilize the inside for the horse sales we have," said Greco. "We can continue to define the uses for it, and maybe there are some we're about to stumble upon."

* Officials from the Breeders' Cup and Magna Entertainment Corp. signed contracts Wednesday that make official what has been known for months, that Lone Star Park will play host to the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships on Oct. 31, 2004. "We believe north Texas is going to be a great new home for this event," said D.G. Van Clief Jr., president of the Breeders' Cup.

* Fans planning to attend the races Friday, or coming to see Willie Nelson in concert following the races, are reminded to arrive early as general admission will increase from $3 to $10 beginning at 9 p.m.