Thursday, September 22, 2005 12:00 AM
FLORENCE, KY . . . September 22, 2005 . . . Several contenders in this Saturday’s $75,000 Marfa Stakes have visited the Turfway Park winner’s circle before, but all that experience is pre-Polytrack. So far, though, the new surface has shown that the best horse has the best shot, and the 6 1/2-furlong Marfa has attracted a competitive nine-horse field.
Level Playingfield has one significant race with one significant win at Turfway: the 2004 Grade III Kentucky Cup Sprint. The big closing finish he displayed in that race may serve him well on Polytrack. Since then he has raced 10 times, missing the money just twice. His last win came in a Churchill Downs allowance race in June. Regular rider John McKee has the call for trainer Robert Holthus, who last weekend sent Beau Dare out to win the Kentucky Cup Juvenile Fillies.
Though he has not run at Turfway, Elusive Jazz is training well, posting back-to-back bullet breezes on September 13 and 20 at Churchill Downs. He comes in off a second place finish in last month’s Arlington Sprint, when he finished a neck behind Fifteen Rounds’ track-record time after a tough stretch battle. Elusive Jazz has consistently landed in the money in strong allowances at Keeneland and Churchill, and if he can hold his speed on the Polytrack surface, he could add the Marfa to his win column. Brian Hernandez Jr. rides for trainer Bobby Barnett.
Private Horde has raced eight times in 2005, and while he won just twice, he also has missed the money just twice. If he handles Polytrack like he handles dirt—or, in the case of a one-mile Indiana Downs win, like he handles turf—he will be on the lead or close to it. He has seven wins and three seconds from 13 pre-Polytrack starts at Turfway, including last year’s Marfa, and he has one workout over the new surface, four furlongs in :50.40 last Saturday. Willie Martinez, third in the jockey standings, rides for trainer Joe Cain.
Trainer D. Wayne Lukas chose the Marfa for With Distinction’s second start off a three-month layoff. His first start back brought a second-place finish in an allowance race at Turfway September 9. His best efforts, including one win this year, have come in good allowances at Saratoga, Churchill, and Keeneland, and he was a game second in the Grade III Maryland Breeders’ Cup last spring. Corey Lanerie will ride.
Rounding out the field are Esprit Du Roi (CHI), with one fourth-place finish at Turfway this meet after a mostly-turf career in Chile; Falcon’s Peak, with one race on Polytrack but that just a week ago; Korbyn Gold, second in the West Virginia Chairman’s Cup two starts ago and a winner last out; Deer Lake, who has a win and two seconds at Turfway in three tries but has been off since June; and Sterling Gold, whose closing style may set him up well for the Marfa.
First post Saturday is 1:10 p.m. Admission and parking are free.