07/19/2007 12:00AM

Waupaca back on favorite turf


GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas - Waupaca has been quite productive over the Lone Star Park turf course this meet. From two starts, he has an allowance win and a third-place finish in the Grade 3, $200,000 Dallas Turf Cup, credentials that should make him the favorite Saturday in the $50,000 Bob Johnson Memorial Stakes.

"He's run two big races here," said Donnie Von Hemel, who trains Waupaca for Wayne Sanders.

Waupaca is one of nine older horses in the Bob Johnson, a one-mile turf race. Among his rivals are three starters on win streaks: Sing Baby Sing, a winner of his last three starts, and Smooth Bid and Almost Certain, who each has won his last two races. Adding further depth to the field is Electric Chant, an invader from Churchill Downs, and Etesaal, the winner of the prep for the Bob Johnson.

Waupaca is returning to the Lone Star turf following a troubled fifth-place finish in the $50,000 Barksdale Handicap over soft turf at Louisiana Downs on June 23. He was the favorite in the one-mile race, and encountered trouble on the second turn.

"We got in some traffic and really never got the opportunity to run until the issue had been decided, basically," Von Hemel said. "We got beat a couple of lengths. That's just the way turf racing goes sometimes.

"He finally did get free, but it was too late."

Waupaca opened his year with a win in a 7 1/2-furlong turf allowance at Lone Star on May 12. He broke from the inside for that race, and drew the rail for the Bob Johnson. Following that race, Waupaca ran third, beaten a length by Embossed, in the Dallas Turf Cup on May 28. Quincy Hamilton was aboard for both races, and has the mount in the Bob Johnson.

Etesaal scored his first win on dirt when he captured the Bob Johnson allowance prep, which was rained off the turf here on Julyo3. Moving back onto the grass would seem to be a plus for Etesaal, who is a four-time winner on turf. Etesaal will break from post 5 under Glen Murphy.

"I'm thinking he'll be right off the pace," said Chris Hartman, who trains Etesaal for Frontier Stables.

Sing Baby Sing is returning to turf following three consecutive dirt wins. The one time he raced on the grass he won a maiden race at 7 1/2 furlongs at Lone Star. Trainer Jack Bruner has given the mount to Justin Shepherd.

* Lone Star will show the movie "Dreamer" - about the rescue and rehabilitation of a racehorse - on the JumboTron following the races Saturday.