About a third of the time, the Laurel Turf Cup can be re-named the Laurel Dirt Cup.
But today the 12-furlong marathon event will be run on the grass.
Seven of the past 22 runnings of the $100,000 stakes have been switched from the grass strip at Laurel Race Course to the dirt track. Heavy rains on the day of the race or immediately before make the footing too deep.
Although four inches of rain have fallen at Laurel during the past week, track superintendent John Passero said yesterday, "The course is soft, but safe."
No race has been run on the grass strip since Oct. 30. The Turf Cup and tomorrow's Chrysanthemum Handicap are the last grass stakes scheduled in Maryland this year.
Passero has set up an auxiliary rail 15 feet from the normal inside fence "to give the horses fresh grass to run over," he said.
A full 14-horse field might find it tough to negotiate the sharper turns because of the temporary rail, but at least one horse, Valley Crossing, is expected to scratch.
A horse that combines speed with a love for the soft going should have a good chance to win. Finding one that can carry his speed 1 1/2 miles is the handicapping challenge.
At least one entry has shown preference for Laurel's squishy late fall footing.
That is Be Nimble, who has been second in the Japan Racing Association Handicap and Find Handicap on similar going. The 4-year-old John Merryman-owned gelding drew in as a 112-pound lightweight, eight pounds below favored Royal Ninja, from New Jersey.
Asserche wins at Aqueduct
Asserche is one horse who was intended to start in the Turf Cup but didn't make it to the lineup.
"I forgot to nominate him," owner John Alecci said.
Not to worry.
Yesterday, Alecci shipped the 4-year-old gelding to Aqueduct and won the $47,000 feature race.
The New York race was scheduled at 1 1/2 miles on the grass but was switched to 1 3/8 miles on the main track.
Alecci is 2-for-2 at Aqueduct. His filly, Cercida, won a $75,000 claiming race there last week. Both horses have been saddled at Aqueduct by Louis Meittinis, a former Standardbred trainer who is the father of Pimlico veterinarian Nick Meittinis.
Alecci moved his 14-horse string from Pimlico and took over Barn 25 at Laurel earlier this week.
Alecci is replenishing his stock and claimed three horses last week.
He likes the chances of his filly, Singing Ring, in today's sixth race at Laurel, even though she is dropping from 1 1/8 miles to six furlongs.
"Basically, she's a sprinter, so I don't think she'll have a problem making the change," Alecci said.