11/01/2006 12:00AM

Both courses in ideal shape


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Butch Lehr has been watching The Weather Channel very closely and likes what he is seeing. Lehr, the longtime track superintendent at Churchill Downs, said he believes the dirt and turf courses will both be in ideal shape Saturday for the 23rd Breeders' Cup World Championships.

"After today it looks like the rain is out of here," Lehr said early Wednesday as a steady rain began showing signs of easing. "We're getting down to the nitty gritty, and it looks like we're going to be in excellent shape."

Lehr said the main track "always seems to do better after we've had a good rain like we've had," and the turf course, which looks particularly full and lush, "is about as good as I've ever had it. We've got a new irrigation system that really sucks the water out of the turf. It's great."

The turf course, over which three of the Breeders' Cup races will be run, has been available for morning training for nearly two weeks, with temporary railings and traffic cones set far out onto the course so as to preserve the inner lanes for racing. Still, "there've actually been a couple days when we had no takers," said Lehr. Morning activity "is slower than I've ever seen it this close to the event," which includes the other five Breeders' Cups run at Churchill, dating to 1988.

Lehr said that with rain being a nonfactor for Saturday, the weather focus will be on temperature. He noted that the forecast high is only about 50, which is not very comfortable for people sitting outside all day, "but it's great for the horses."

Microphone shared by many

Many voices will be heard from on Friday. That's because it's All-Star Announcers Day, the annual reunion of some of the nation's best race-callers.

Besides Luke Kruytbosch, the everyday Churchill caller, the lineup of announcers for the 12-race card also features Mike Battaglia from Turfway Park, Mike Chamberlin (Sam Houston), Larry Collmus (Monmouth, Suffolk), John G. Dooley (Arlington, Fair Grounds), Bill Downes (Beulah), Dave Johnson (Meadowlands), Jon Lies (Lone Star), Dan Loiselle (Woodbine), and Travis Stone (Louisiana Downs).

The Friday card also includes a $100,000 guaranteed pool on the pick six. First post for both Friday and Saturday is 11:15 a.m. Eastern.

Big fields for two early stakes

Full fields of 14 were entered for the two $200,000 stakes that lead off the Saturday card.

The first race will be the Very Subtle Stakes, for fillies and mares at six furlongs. Like so many of the Breeders' Cup races that will follow, the Very Subtle looks like a handicapping jumble, with the main contenders being Joint Effort, Prospective Saint, Morner, Trippi Street, Maggie Slew, and Hot Storm.

The second race is the Grade 3 Ack Ack Handicap, a one-mile race that will mark the first start in more than seven months for Magna Graduate. Last fall, Magna Graduate won the showcase race of the Churchill fall meet, the Clark Handicap, by a head over Suave.

The field also includes Latent Heat, It's No Joke, Straight Line, Andromeda's Hero, and Greeley's Galaxy.

* The 11-race Sunday card also was drawn Wednesday. The feature race, the $150,000 Cardinal Handicap, drew a full field of 12 fillies and mares, with Amorama and Rich in Spirit the starting 118-pound highweights.

* Racing also will be held here Tuesday, normally a dark day, because it's Election Day.