09/10/2003 11:00PM

Awesome Humor makes pivotal start


FLORENCE, Ky. - This year hasn't exactly worked out the way Elliott Walden had planned for Awesome Humor - but that doesn't necessarily mean it has been a bad year. In fact, if she can win Saturday at Turfway Park, Awesome Humor will have made up for quite a bit of lost time.

After winning all four of her starts last year at 2, Awesome Humor was supposed to return as a major force in her division - a more mature and versatile filly, albeit one who retained an eye-catching turn of foot. It just hasn't happened that way.

After faring poorly in her return from ankle surgery in May, Awesome Humor won an allowance race in June, then was good enough to finish second in both the Delaware Oaks and 1 1/4-mile Alabama Stakes. Now, having returned home to Kentucky, the daughter of Distorted Humor will turn back to 1 1/16 miles when she faces older rivals in the $175,000 Turfway Breeders' Cup on the Kentucky Cup undercard.

Walden, who trains Awesome Humor for WinStar Farm, insists he is pleased with the progress the filly has made in recent months and believes she is best suited to longer races. He also is happy that Awesome Humor will carry 112 pounds according to the allowance conditions of the Grade 3 Turfway BC, meaning she will be getting 10 pounds from one of her main challengers, Smok'n Frolic, and eight from another, Desert Gold.

In addition, Awesome Humor drew a favorable starting position when posts were drawn Thursday. With Robby Albarado to ride, Awesome Humor will break from post 2 in the field of 10 fillies and mares.

Smok'n Frolic, a winner of more than $1.1 million for Dogwood Stable, drew post 9 and will be ridden by Edgar Prado. Besides her and Desert Gold, other viable contenders include Country Romance, So Much More, and Reason to Talk.

Sprint: Stewart brings Clock Stopper

For 11-plus years, Dallas Stewart assisted Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas in transforming W.T. Young's Overbrook Farm into one of the most prominent stables in North American racing. Along the way, Stewart had a good day or two at the races - and some of those memorable afternoons occurred at Turfway Park, such as when Tabasco Cat, Cat Appeal, Editor's Note, Golden Attraction, and Boston Harbor won Kentucky Cup races.

Several years after leaving Lukas and establishing himself as a successful trainer in his own right, Stewart is back at Turfway with an Overbrook runner who could make a big splash on Kentucky Cup Day. Stewart will saddle Clock Stopper, a spectacular winner in a recent allowance race at Saratoga, as one of the main contenders in a field of 12 3-year-olds entered in the Grade 3 Kentucky Cup Sprint.

Clock Stopper, a gelding by Gilded Time, appeared to lose all chance in his last race when he missed the start and immediately fell some 10 lengths behind the rest of the field. However, he launched an amazing rally to win by 6 1/2 lengths under Jerry Bailey.

"After I saw that start, I was throwing up - not only my hands, but I was very nauseated," Stewart said Thursday, laughing. "I was talking to Jerry afterward, and he didn't think he had any shot, but he said he just bumped him a little bit on the shoulder and the horse started to respond. When he came home the way he did, it was just unbelievable."

Saturday, in what is probably the deepest of the Kentucky Cup events, Clock Stopper will have to run another huge race. Among his more accomplished opponents are Champali, who soundly defeated him in June at Churchill Downs, and Offlee Wild, a graded winner who will make his first start since a 12th-place finish in the May 3 Kentucky Derby.

"I'm hoping the track will suit [Clock Stopper]," said Stewart, who earlier in the day will run Even the Score in the Kentucky Cup Classic for Thomas Vanderhyde. "It'd be great to win for Mr. Young and everybody at Overbrook."

Other contenders in the six-furlong Sprint include Coach Jimi Lee, a rapid Chicago invader trained by Jimmy DiVito, and Cajun Beat, trained by Steve Margolis. The race is so tough that Gold Storm, unbeaten in three career starts, figures as an outsider in the wagering.

Juvenile: Pomeroy likely favorite

For a race with a mere Grade 3 ranking and $100,000 purse, the Kentucky Cup Juvenile has outdone itself in its nine-year history. The roster of winners is dotted with highly accomplished racehorses, including an eventual Horse of the Year (Point Given) and two Eclipse champions (Boston Harbor and Vindication).

Whether any of the nine 2-year-olds entered in this year's Juvenile will go on to attain such lofty heights remains to be seen, but trainer Patrick Biancone believes he has a viable candidate in Pomeroy, the probable favorite in the 1 1/16-mile race.

Pomeroy, a Boundary colt owned by Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith, was terrific in

winning his first two starts by a combined 17 1/2 lengths. Then, in his third and latest start, Pomeroy finished second by 7 1/2 lengths to Cuvee in the Aug. 13 Saratoga Special.

Pomeroy, said Biancone, "found a better horse on that day. [Cuvee is] for sure a better sprinter than we are." But considering the additional distance of the Juvenile, Biancone believes Pomeroy will flourish. "We thought we'd be better around two turns. He's got a lot of stamina in his pedigree."

Pomeroy will break from post 2 under Edgar Prado. California invader Ruler's Court, perhaps his strongest challenger, will break from the other end of the starting gate with Pat Day up. The Cliff's Edge, an impressive winner at Saratoga in his lone start, is another logical contender. He is trained by Nick Zito.

Juvenile Fillies: Three look like standouts

At least on paper, three fillies appear to separate themselves from the other six in the one-mile, $100,000 Juvenile Fillies.

Class Above was a romping winner for trainer Bob Baffert in her first and only start. Renaissance Lady already is a seasoned veteran for Lukas, having finished second in three stakes. And Sweet Jo Jo was good enough to defeat a solid field of fillies for Steve Asmussen in the Ellis Debutante in her latest start.

Carded as the ninth race, the Juvenile Fillies leads off the Kentucky Cup series, which runs from races 9 to 13.