Top turf sprinter Morluc was to have prepped at Churchill Downs Thursday for a run next month in the $1.025 million Hong Kong Sprint at Sha Tin Race Course, but trainer Randy Morse has decided to forego that prep. Morse scratched Mike Cloonan's 8-5 morning line favorite from the five furlong allowance sprint on the Thanksgiving Day card because of concern over the presence of the temporary rail on the Churchill Downs turf course.The rail, which protects the inner part of the course during weekday competition over the seven furlong course, is up for the final time in 2001 and turf racing will be on the hedge for the final two days of the meet. But the rail is coming down one day too late to please Morse. The course heavily favors horses with inside speed when the rail is up and he did not want to pit his stable star, who would have broken from post position eight, against both a tough field and a strong track bias."That's a huge bias on that course," said Morse. "He would have to run extremely hard from the eight hole to get over toward the rail. Plus, everybody else in the race knows the nature of the course and they would be gunning out of the gate. So I just decided to scratch him."
Morse said the 5-year-old son of Housebuster will now run in the Dec. 16 Hong Kong race without the benefit of a prep since his win in the Nureyev Stakes at Keeneland on Oct. 5. He does not think that will be a problem for Morluc, who lost the Hong Kong race by a head last year, but Morse would preferred to run his horse in Thursday's race."I was debating whether to run him or not, but he's doing great,"said Morse. "He might be the best he's ever been. He ran big there last year when he had sore feet, but his feet are fine now." Morluc has won five of six races on the Churchill Downs turf, including the Aegon Turf Sprint (gr. III). He has a career record of 9-5-5 in 31 races and has earned $628,843.Morse said Morluc will leave for Hong Kong on Nov. 29.