05/30/2002 11:00PM

All systems normal for U.S. Jets race


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Some pretty strange stuff happened the last time U.S. Jets ran at Churchill Downs, but that's the way with long-shot winners.

U.S. Jets, owned by Dan Jones and trained by veteran Bob Holthus, rallied to win a May 15 allowance race, returning $45.60 to win. The mutuel prices were further magnified by the show payoffs on the top three finishers, all of which were inordinately high because Bet on Sunshine, the 3-5 favorite, finished fourth after attracting several sizable show bets.

On Sunday, U.S. Jets will run in more conventional circumstances when he faces five other older sprinters in the ninth of 10 Churchill races, a $58,500 allowance at seven furlongs. Hero's Tribute and Dash for Daylight are probably the main obstacles for a repeat by U.S. Jets, a 5-year-old Salem Drive horse who has won five of 25 starts and nearly $200,000.

Holthus, who later this month will celebrate his 50th anniversary as a Thoroughbred trainer, said U.S. Jets exited that latest victory in good order. "It'd be nice if he could turn in another big race like that," he said.

Twilight Road, Two Punch Sonny, and Little Lee also are entered in the ninth, which is just one of four allowance races on a solid Sunday card. In the others:

- Town Queen and Bedazzle figure as the top contenders in a field of six older fillies and mares in the third race, a $45,500 allowance at six furlongs.

- Silver Sonnet, a sensational maiden winner at Keeneland, tries making amends for her first career defeat when facing eight other

3-year-old fillies in the seventh, a $42,900 entry-level allowance at 5 1/2 furlongs.

o Play It Out, one of several horses on the card that can boast the leading jockey-trainer combination at the meet (Pat Day and Dale Romans), is one of nine older horses entered in the eighth race, a $44,200 turf route.

Flint makes it two

Bernie Flint has been a perennial top trainer at Churchill for 20 years, having won his first race here in the spring of 1982. So when he began this meet with just one winner from

37 starters, it could fairly be said that Flint was off to an uncharacteristically slow start.

Flint, who ranks fourth in career wins at Churchill behind Bill Mott, D. Wayne Lukas, and Jack Van Berg, notched his second win of the meet when Pat Day guided Find My Halter to a narrow victory in the opening race Friday.

Sky Terrace vs. Stephentown, again

A rematch between Sky Terrace and Stephentown, the one-two finishers in a May 25 allowance, appears likely in the June 15 Northern Dancer Handicap.

Sky Terrace got a far better trip than Stephentown to win their last clash by a half-length. "That's the way it goes," said Tony Reinstedler, trainer of Stephentown. "My horse came out of it good, so we'll look forward to the next spot."

The $100,000, one-mile Northern Dancer is one of four stakes to be run here June 15, with the $750,000 Stephen Foster Handicap being the showcase event. The $300,000 Fleur de Lis and $150,000 Regret also will be run.

- Bridget Says, a 5 3/4-length winner of her career debut May 24 at Lone Star Park for trainer Brent Davidson, has been privately purchased by a partnership of Bill Steiden, David Mullins, Joe Lepping, and others. A 2-year-old Patton filly now stabled at Churchill with Paul McGee, Bridget Says will be pointed to the July 6 Debutante Stakes.