02/20/2003 12:00AM

Valdale forecast is bleak


Most any owner or trainer would like to win a little stakes such as the Valdale, a $50,000 race scheduled for Saturday at Turfway Park.

But the way things have been going lately at the Florence, Ky., track, horsemen would be ecstatic merely to have the opportunity to run a horse in the Valdale.

Running a horse race, period, suddenly has become a major problem for officials at Turfway, where Thursday marked the sixth straight cancellation of racing. The track surface has been plagued by perpetual freezing and thawing, making conditions too hazardous to allow racing to take place.

"It's been okay to train over in the morning, because it's usually below freezing, and you can work with the track," Turfway racing secretary Rick Leigh said Thursday. "But then it warms up, and the track thaws out unevenly, and we're stuck with a big mess."

Unfortunately for Turfway, the outlook for the Friday through Sunday programs does not look promising.

"We're supposed to get rain, snow, and then temperatures into the 20's," Leigh said. "We'll do what we can to try to run, but it looks like the whole weekend is in jeopardy."

With this latest streak of six bringing the total number of cancellations since Jan. 1 to eight, Leigh said Turfway is hoping to recoup some of those lost dates by running nine races every Monday afternoon, beginning March 3.

If the one-mile Valdale actually takes place Saturday, Jenny's Prospector looks like the logical favorite in a field of 12 3-year-old fillies. Twelve races are carded.

A $50,000 stakes race also is tentatively scheduled for Sunday at Turfway. The Dust Commander has been rescheduled following a Feb. 15 cancellation.

Turfway stakes coordinator Randy Wehrman said he is concerned that if weather conditions continue to plague the track, then key races such as the $100,000 John Battaglia Memorial might be adversely affected. The Battaglia, which serves as the local prep for the track's showcase race, the Lane's End Stakes, is scheduled for Saturday, March 1.

"Some of the local trainers might not be able to train their horses the way they want because of the track condition," Wehrman said. "We've also got Gary Contessa planning on shipping in Grey Comet from New York. He wants to be able to work him over the track for the Battaglia by Monday or Tuesday."

Wehrman noted that conditions have not been as severe in Louisville, where Champali, a major contender for the 1 1/16-mile Battaglia, is in training at Trackside for Greg Foley. Over the last week or so, Lexington and northern Kentucky have been hit by substantially worse weather than Louisville.

The $500,000 Lane's End, which typically attracts a handful of Kentucky Derby hopefuls, is set for March 22. Nominations will be released by early next week.

for Turfway Park entries.

:: Subscribers: to purchase past performances for Turfway Park.

:: Non-subscribers: to purchase past performances for Turfway Park.