03/06/2009 1:00AM

Ventura still scary in less-than-ideal situation

Email

ARCADIA, Calif. - Ventura is virtually unbeatable in one-turn sprints on synthetic against fillies and mares.

And though she steps outside her comfort zone Saturday in a turf route against colts and geldings, trainer Bobby Frankel said, "It's not like she's hopeless on turf."

Ventura stretches out and changes surfaces for the Grade 1 Frank E. Kilroe Handicap, a mile grass race in which she is expected to start favored over 11 males.

The field for the race 9 Kilroe will dwindle by post time. Frankel said Mast Track is not expected to start, while front-runner Monterey Jazz is uncertain to run.

What is known is Ventura will make her first turf start since a runner-up finish against open company in the Grade 1 Woodbine Mile last fall. A 5-year-old mare, Ventura subsequently won two Santa Anita sprints - the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint and Grade 1 Santa Monica Handicap. That is where Frankel expects her to end her career this fall.

"At the end of the year, I'll probably run her in the race she won last year," he said, referring to the Filly and Mare Sprint. Ventura has won eight races and more than $1.5 million, and will be ridden again by Garrett Gomez.

It is a testament to her superior ability that Ventura will be favored in the Kilroe even if she prefers a different configuration.

"She might be better at a one-turn mile than two turns," Frankel admits, "but she's doing good now, and I think she'll run a good race."

Ventura, who will ship to Keeneland after the Kilroe, does not have to win Saturday, even if none of her rivals is a superstar. Global Hunter makes his second start back from a layoff, Grade 1 winner Artiste Royal cuts back to one mile, Dixie Chatter benefits from the shorter distance, and Mr. Napper Tandy will be finishing.

Global Hunter was given a planned break after winning the restricted Lure Stakes on Oct. 12 at Santa Anita, and trainer A.C. Avila expects him to improve second start back.

"He needed his last race," Avila said. "He was 70 percent."

Afterward, Avila said Global Hunter "came back unbelievable, he came back like he was the winner. He's so confident."

The question is wither Global Hunter is good enough. An import from Argentina, his best finishes last year in graded stakes were two thirds in Grade 2's.

Avila hopes that Global Hunter, a 6-year-old with a 6-for-21 record, has room to improve, but rain this week does him no favors.

"My only concern is he does not [run as well] when the track is soft," Avila said.

Weather will influence the Kilroe pace, because front-runner Monterey Jazz may not run.

"We're on the fence," trainer Craig Dollase said. "This darn weather has been following us."

In top form, Monterey Jazz would have a big chance to race wire to wire. But in three starts since returning from a foot injury, his best finish was a modest third, and Dollase prefers running on a firm course.

If both Mast Track and Monterey Jazz scratch, Hewitts would be the potential lone speed. He has never raced two turns, but could fall into the front.

Wise River, Becrux, Gio Ponti, and Victory Pete are also entered.