10/24/2001 11:00PM

Vinnie's Boy to relish soft turf

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ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - The rain that has plagued racing at Arlington for more than a month could be a blessing for Vinnie's Boy and his connections. Saturday's $50,000-added Taylor's Special Stakes will be run over a mushy turf course - if it is run on turf at all - the same sort of conditions under which Vinnie's Boy scored his last win.

Vinnie's Boy is part of a good field entered in the Taylor's Special, which will be run at the abbreviated distanced of five furlongs on turf provided no more rain hits the area. This has been an extraordinarily wet autumn in Chicago and the weather has hurt Arlington, forcing many races from turf to the main track, often decimating the big, bettable fields that were entered for grass.

Heavy rains cancelled turf racing here Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, but little precipitation was forecast this weekend.

Soft turf is fine, if not preferable, for Vinnie's Boy. A turf-sprint specialist owned by Robert Beck and trained by Steve Asmussen, Vinnie's Boy won the biggest race of his career in late May, the $100,000 Lone Star Turf Sprint Handicap, a race that was run in a bog. Vinnie's Boy also won a Fair Grounds turf sprint on a course labeled "good," more evidence that the gelding prefers some cut in the ground.

Final Row and Miner's Gamble also are viable contenders who have excelled in one-turn turf races. The Dennis Ebert-trained Miner's Gamble is in fact 3 for 3 at the distance, and enters this race fresh, having started only three time since February. He was rained out of a turf sprint start here earlier this month.

The consistent Final Row, who trains with Tom Amoss, alternates between high-end allowance races and minor stakes, and is a good fit with this group of horses.

No Morluc in Taylor's Special

The Taylor's Special lost its potential standout when trainer Randy Morse decided to keep Morluc, arguably the best turf sprinter in the country, at home in Kentucky. Morse said he didn't relish the idea of running Morluc over a wet turf course, especially since the horse was badly beaten on soft turf when he was a heavy favorite in the Lone Star Sprint Handicap. Morse said Morluc will be pointed to the Nov. 5 Morvich Handicap, a $100,000 turf sprint at Santa Anita.

Morluc traveled extensively this year, losing by a short head in a major Hong Kong turf sprint and finishing seventh in the Dubai Golden Sheema on dirt.

The Dubai trip may have knocked out Morluc a bit, and he was turned out in late summer, returning last month at Keeneland with a brilliant win in the Nureyev Stakes. Morse said Morluc was likely to race in Hong Kong again this winter.

Catalano vs. Hollendorfer close

The race for leading trainer at Arlington will go down to the wire.

Jerry Hollendorfer and Wayne Catalano were deadlocked with 37 wins each going into Thursday's card. Catalano went on a hot streak to take the lead Sunday after having trailed Hollendorfer by seven wins earlier this month. But he was shut out Wednesday while Hollendorfer won with the class-dropping Minister of Decorm.

This is Hollendorfer's first full season in Chicago. Catalano won the training title here last year.

* Saturday, Arlington will run an eight-race live program with an early post time because of the World Thoroughbred Championships. Racing here gets underway at 10 a.m., with six races to be run before the first Breeders' Cup race and two more live races held between Breeders' Cup races.

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