08/31/2005 12:00AM

Is luck finally with 'Protocol'?


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Standing in the shed row of his barn Wednesday morning as rain steadily poured, trainer Rusty Arnold said his 2-year-old filly Southern Protocol might be unlucky yet again in finding a race that actually stayed on the turf.

was an impressive maiden winner at Ellis Park on July 22, but since then, Arnold has changed course with her twice, at Ellis and Monmouth Park, before bringing her to Saratoga. He will enter her in Friday's feature, the inaugural running of the $65,000 P.G. Johnson Stakes for juvenile fillies at 1 1/16 miles on the grass. Ten fillies were entered, with one also-eligible.

Southern Protocol will run only if the race remains on the turf, so Arnold said he is hoping the sunny skies expected for Friday will dry up the course after turf racing was canceled Wednesday.

"She's had an eventful time since she broke her maiden," said Arnold, who trains Southern Protocol, a homebred, for G. Watts Humphrey Jr. "At least she's well-schooled. She has shipped everywhere."

Southern Protocol earned an 80 Beyer Speed Figure when she won her maiden by 3 1/4 lengths. She trained at Churchill Downs for an entry-level allowance race at Ellis Park, but the race never filled. Southern Protocol then shipped to Monmouth Park for the Junior Champion Stakes on turf Aug. 21, but the race was switched to the main track because of safety concerns related to the grass course. On Friday, Edgar Prado picks up the mount.

Because several entrants in the P.G. Johnson are still maidens and every horse has started in no more than three races, the field is wide open. Ready to Talk and My Interpretation hold an experience edge, with each having won on grass at 1 1/16 miles.

, trained by Todd Pletcher, went wire to wire with John Velazquez aboard in her lone grass start July 29. She ran well in two maiden races on the dirt at Monmouth, making her a strong contender whether the race stays on or comes off the turf. Velazquez retains the mount.

also appreciated the move to grass with a maiden win after two dirt starts. A New York-bred trained by John Kimmel, My Interpretation will likely keep Ready to Talk company on the front end.

With several fillies coming out of sprints, the early pace should be swift. This should help Dr. Jess Jr, who recently came charging late at 62-1 to get second in a maiden turf race here.