11/02/2005 12:00AM

Baxter Hall leads open field


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - In the horse racing desert cryptically known as Short Fields Sands, the fall meet at Churchill Downs is providing a welcome oasis. On the overnight sheet for a 10-race Friday card at Churchill, there are 125 entries, a tonic indeed for horseplayers thirsting for sizable fields.

Alas, the Friday feature does not appear to be anything special. It's a third-level allowance for fillies and mares, with no apparent standout. But with the main body of the field consisting of 10 horses, plus four also-eligibles, the race resounds the big-field theme that has been in place since the 21-day meet began Sunday.

, a Rahy filly with nine in-the-money finishes from 17 career starts, looks as good as any in the featured ninth of 10 Friday races, a one-mile turf race with a purse of $60,400. Trained by Tony Reinstedler for the Willmott Stables of Peter Willmott, Baxter Hall will be trying to improve off a distant second-place finish in her last start Sept. 21 over the Polytrack surface at Turfway Park.

Baxter Hall - who may have earned an obscure place on Pat Day's r?sum? when he became Day's final dead-heat winner June 8 - will be ridden by Jesus Castanon and will break from post 3.

Other contenders in what appears to be a wide-open feature include Plenty, a Claiborne Farm filly who will be making her first start since being transferred into the care of Bill Mott; , who gets the circuit's perennial leading rider, Rafael Bejarano, and is entered by trainer Darrin Miller to be claimed for $80,000; Amanuensis, who seems better than her 16 3/4-length defeat last out at Turfway suggests; and Vallera, a German-bred making her first start for Bobby Frankel.

, a 4-year-old by Boundary, owns the kind of speed to make her dangerous from the start - and that would be especially true Friday if the rails are set well out from the hedge on the Churchill turf course, a situation that has been known to favor front-running types. Trained at the time by Steve Young, Plenty registered her last victory three starts back when she led gate to wire at Belmont Park.

The Friday fare at Churchill is predominantly claiming races, which partly accounts for the plethora of entries. The ninth is the lone allowance race of the day. First post is 12:40 p.m.