06/09/2002 11:00PM

Baffert kvetches over Foster weights

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Congaree has been named the 121-pound highweight for the $750,000 Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs on Saturday. And Bob Baffert is not happy about it.

Shortly after overseeing Congaree's five-furlong work in 1:01.20, Baffert was on the phone Monday morning with Churchill racing secretary Doug Bredar, expressing his displeasure that Congaree has been assigned more weight than horses such as Street Cry (120) and Milwaukee Brew (119).

"My horse has won one Grade 1 race, the Swaps," Baffert said after the conversation ended. "Street Cry wins the Dubai World Cup. Milwaukee Brew wins the Santa Anita Handicap. And they're under my horse? I don't get it. It's not the actual weight, it's the thought. I think they take advantage of me here."

Because of the weights, Baffert said he will consider running Congaree instead in the $500,000 Californian Stakes on Saturday, when Hollywood Park will be giving away Baffert bobblehead dolls.

"I'd have to find a way to get him there," said Baffert.

Sure enough, later Monday Baffert reserved a spot for Congaree on a Wednesday flight to California, although he told a Churchill official that he does not know what he will do.

Congaree, owned by Stonerside Stable, returned to action last month with an impressive victory in the Lone Star Handicap under Pat Day, who is scheduled to ride him again Saturday. The Lone Star was the first start for Congaree since the colt came out of the Jim Dandy last summer with an injury.

Although Milwaukee Brew will not run in the Grade 1 Foster Handicap - the richest race in North America this weekend - Street Cry is a definite starter for Godolphin Racing, and will be ridden by Jerry Bailey.

At least nine other older horses are expected for the 1 1/8-mile race: Hail the Chief, 117; Invisible Ink, 116; Tenpins, 115; Unshaded, 115; Dollar Bill, 114; Parade Leader, 113; Connected, 112; Slider, 111; and Proper Man, 110.

Street Cry and Invisible Ink were expected to arrive here Thursday from New York.

Three other stakes will be run Saturday on what has evolved as easily the best day of racing at the Churchill spring meet after the Kentucky Derby. In the other races:

* Spain, the all-time leading filly-mare earner, will be the 121-pound highweight in the $300,000 Fleur de Lis Handicap. Spain, owned by The Thoroughbred Corp. and trained by D. Wayne Lukas, won the May 3 Louisville Breeders' Cup in her last start, then was bred shortly thereafter to Storm Cat and pronounced in foal.

Dancethruthedawn (119) and Forest Secrets (118) are expected to be the main challengers to Spain in the 1 1/8-mile, Grade 2 Fleur de Lis.

* Styleistick, Tracie's Girl, and Hi Tech Honeycomb are the most notable 3-year-old fillies being pointed to the $150,000 Regret Stakes, a Grade 3 turf race at 1 1/16 miles.

* A rematch between Sky Terrace and Stephentown will be the main storyline for the $100,000 Northern Dancer Stakes, a one-mile race for 3-year-olds. Baffert has four colts nominated, including Danthebluegrassman and Saturday Hero.

De Bertie retired

Fleur de Lis nominee De Bertie has been retired after being diagnosed with an ankle chip, said Richard Klein, whose family owns the 5-year-old De Niro mare.

De Bertie, trained by Steve Flint, won nine of 24 starts and earned $485,920. She did her best running at Gulfstream Park, where she won the 2001 Sabin and Rampart handicaps and the 2002 Escena and Allen Paulson handicaps.

"She was good to us," said Klein, who owns the mare with his parents, Bert and Elaine.

Apprentice back in saddle

Apprentice rider Valerie Nagle is scheduled to return to action Wednesday after having recovered from a concussion she suffered in a spill here Saturday.

Nagle, 23, was cleared to ride by Dr. Raymond Shea after undergoing a follow-up examination Monday, said agent Steve Elzey. Nagle is the leading apprentice at the meet with 10 wins.

'Hillbilly headache'

John T. Ward Jr. said Baffert "must have a hillbilly headache" after yet another Kentucky trainer won a race that would have meant a Triple Crown for Baffert.

"Me, Kenny [McPeek], and Elliott [Walden] all kept him from a Triple Crown," Ward said Sunday. "Only David Hofmans wasn't in that class."

In years that Baffert won two-thirds of the Triple Crown, Ward won the 2000 Kentucky Derby with Monarchos, Hofmans the 1997 Belmont with Touch Gold, Walden the 1998 Belmont with Victory Gallop, and McPeek Saturday's Belmont with Sarava.

* With only six horses entered, the Wednesday feature was carded as the third of 10 races. The $64,900 race is of borderline stakes quality, with such proven runners as Spicy Stuff, Fajardo, and Frazee's Folly likely to take the most action. Three other allowances also are carded for Wednesday.