06/05/2002 11:00PM

Wertz likes both surfaces


MIAMI - Wertz's easy eight-length victory last month in the off-the-turf Carterista Handicap not only extended his win streak to four but also proved he was more than a one-dimensional grass horse. His newfound dirt ability should serve him well at Calder this summer with the south Florida rainy season now in full swing.

Wertz will shoot for his fifth straight in Saturday's $35,000 Kissin Kris Stakes at Calder, scheduled at 1 1/8 miles on turf and carded as the first race of the day in an attempt to beat the mid-afternoon rains that regularly plague this area during the summer.

Before the Carterista, Wertz won three straight races over the Gulfstream Park turf course. Trainer Joe Calascibetta originally thought about scratching Wertz from the Carterista when that race was switched to the main track but after learning the field had been reduced to just four starters he decided to take a chance. He was rewarded with one of the most impressive performances of Wertz's career, which now includes 14 victories and earnings of nearly $550,000.

Wertz will carry high weight of 122 pounds under the allowance conditions of the Kissin Kris with Julio Garcia again named to ride.

If the race stays on the turf, T V Sports Director figures to be the main competition. This multiple stakes winner is seeking to rebound off a disappointing ninth place as the even-money favorite in Tampa Bay Downs's Columbia Stakes.

"The turf was all chewed up and more like a muddy racetrack than a grass course in Tampa," said Phil Combest, assistant to trainer Reed Combest. "And once he saw that, he just didn't run at all."

T V Sports Director will be seeking his first victory since capturing the Needles Stakes at Calder in October, although he did finish third, beaten less than a length by Del Mar Show, in Gulfstream's Grade 3 Fort Lauderdale Handicap in January.

"He's been up against some killers all winter and while he's run some good races he just hasn't gotten there first in a while," said Combest.

If the Kissin Kris winds up switching to the main track, Wertz will vie for favoritism with High Ideal, who chased home the odds-on Best of the Rest in both the Phantom Tour and Grade 3 Memorial Day handicaps here last month.

The Kissin Kris begins a 13-race program here Saturday that includes eight allowances and concludes with the simulcast of the Belmont Stakes.

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