06/14/2004 11:00PM

Beau's Town to get a test

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - This past Saturday, trainer Cole Norman trained a horse to a head-turning stakes victory when Boston Express won the Dixie Miss Stakes by 9 3/4 lengths at Louisiana Downs, earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 106.

Saturday in the $150,000 Aristides Handicap at Churchill Downs, he aims for a similar outcome with a horse who has already made an impact in important stakes: Beau's Town.

Last year, Beau's Town finished second to Mountain General in the six-furlong Aristides, one of just two losses in six starts for Beau's Town in 2003. He rebounded from that defeat, a head loss, to take the Grade 2 Bing Crosby Handicap at Del Mar in his subsequent start.

That win made him an early contender for the Breeders' Cup Sprint, but a distant loss in the Phoenix Breeders' Cup - after which an ankle chip was discovered - derailed those plans.

Freshened following ankle surgery to remove the chip, he returned April 8 in the Count Fleet Sprint Handicap, finishing a troubled fifth behind Shake You Down. Dropped in class and with a race behind him, he bounced back by taking the Ford Express, a $75,000 stakes race at Lone Star, running a Beyer Figure of 106 in his first race with blinkers.

Norman said the Aristides is a test to see if Beau's Town is at the same level as last year. "If he wins, we might go for the Bing Crosby again," he said. "If he can't win, we'll have to start looking elsewhere."

Norman is hopeful that Beau's Town remains the horse he was in 2003, although he acknowledged the challenges facing his horse, as a 6-year-old coming off an injury. "Whenever you have surgery on a human or an animal, it doesn't just go away. The pressure is on him, and me," he said.

Beau's Town will arrive at Churchill on Wednesday morning and should begin training over the track on Thursday, Norman said. He said Calvin Borel would ride Beau's Town in the Aristides.

Boston Express, meanwhile, could be headed to Calder for her next start. Norman said he is considering the Grade 3, $300,000 Azalea Breeders' Cup on July 10 for her next race, provided she comes out of the Dixie Miss in good condition.

Her fast race in the Dixie Miss appeared to take little out of her. Norman said that jockey John Jacinto had to get an outrider to help him pull her up, and then on her way to the winner's circle she tried to run off again.

Boston Express, a 3-year-old daughter of Boston Harbor owned by Jack G. Brooks, has won 3 of 6 starts and $77,400.

Small field likely

Beau's Town will face a short lineup in the Aristides. Defending champion Mountain General is likely to start, as is Champali, Cloud Walker, and Battle Won. Great Notion is considered a possibility.

Graded stakes winner Private Horde is expected to skip the race. He is being pointed toward the Mountain State Handicap, a $75,000 race at Mountaineer Park July 4, trainer Joe Cain said.

Mountain General and Cloud Walker got in their final works for the Aristides on Monday. Mountain General breezed a half-mile in 47.40 seconds at Churchill Downs, while Cloud Walker went five furlongs in 1:01.

* Ellis Park, whose meet begins July 7 and runs through Sept. 6, has released its first condition book for the season. Racing will be held six days a week this year, up from five days a week in 2003, and some overnight purses are down slightly. Straight maiden races, for example, will carry a $25,000 purse for Kentucky-breds, down from $27,000 in 2003. Stakes purses total a record $1.1 million, up $25,000 from last year.