Mother Nature Could Impact Athenia

Edited press release
Continuous wet weather combined with a turf course that needed a break before the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships at Belmont Park on Oct. 29 could mean that Saturday's grade III, $100,000 Athenia Handicap scheduled for a 1 1/16 miles on turf may be run on the main track.

With some precipitation forecast for every day through Sunday, the fillies and mares entered for the Athenia will at worst have to deal with a soft turf course.

One filly that would run on turf or dirt is Avastar LLC's Sharp Needle. The 4-year-old won her last start on turf in the Memories of Silver at Belmont last month and also shows a win over the all-weather Polytrack surface at Lingfield in England. Polytrack has recently gained acceptance in the United States as Turfway Park just completed its first meet using the synthetic surface.

"We're trying to get more black type for her," said trainer John Pregman Jr., who also owns part of the filly and would not like to see the Athenia run on the dirt since it would lost its graded status. "I haven't run her on soft turf, so I don't really know what to expect."

Sharp Needle's last two outs have been pretty good. On Aug. 11 at Saratoga, she tried to rally into a dawdling pace set by Path of Thunder in the De La Rose and managed third. Laying close to the pace in the Memories of Silver, Sharp Needle dug in and prevailed by a neck for the victory.

"She likes to be in contention and then make her move," Pregman said of the filly. "When she's farther back and there's no pace, she's not going to run as well."

Natalie Beach defeated Sharp Needle by a neck in a third-level allowance at Belmont May 12 and may face her again in the Athenia.

"If it comes up soft, I don't think I'd run her," trainer Jimmy Toner said of Natalie Beach. "Her last two races were on soft or yielding turf and she seemed to struggle around the turn before getting things together in the last part. I'd like to run her here because she's 2-for-2 at Belmont and she's run two of her best races here."

\Natalie Beach has won on dirt in her native Argentina, but Toner said he would need to discuss the situation with owner Castletop Stable before deciding to run the 5-year-old mare on the main track.

Horse, trainer, jockey, weight
1.--Delta Princess, Bill Mott, Eibar Coa, 119
2.-- Natalie Beach, Jimmy Toner, Jose Santos, 115
3.-- Sharp Needle, John Pregman, Fernando Jara, 115
4.-- Moon Dazzle, Christophe Clement, Joe Bravo, 114
5.-- Miss Mambo, Dermot Weld, Javier Castellano, 116
6.--Fortunate Damsel, Billy Turner, Pablo Fragoso, 113
7.-- Asti, , H. Allen Jerkens, Jorge Chavez, 113
8.--(MTO) Zosima, Saeed bin Suroor, no rider named (117)
9. -- (MTO) My Lordship, Bill Mott, Jerry Bailey, (118)
10 -- (MTO) Bohemian Lady, Todd Pletcher, no rider named (120)

Zosima, My Lordship and Bohemian Lady are entered for the main track only.