10/20/2005 12:00AM

Bright Gold scores fifth straight win

Bill Straus
Bright Gold, Horacio Karamanos up, scores a two-length win in Thursday's Franklin County Stakes.

LEXINGTON, Ky. - Maryland invader Bright Gold notched her fifth straight victory when she overcame early trouble and proved clearly best Thursday in the $113,300 at Keeneland.

Owned by Hazel Marsh and trained by Mary Eppler, Bright Gold drew clear in the final furlong to prevail by two lengths over Tara's Touch. Bright Gold paid $5.80 as the favorite in a field of 10 fillies mares and finished 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:02.53 over a firm turf course.

Horacio Karamanos was aboard Bright Gold, a 5-year-old Virginia-bred by Hold for Gold.

"My filly got position after we were behind horses," said Karamanos. "This is my favorite horse."

On yet another sun-splashed afternoon, and before an ontrack crowd of 8,999, Very Vegas and Our Love contested the pace in the Franklin County, with Tara's Touch poised to strike behind them. Turning for home, Karamanos maneuvered Bright Gold to a clear outside path, and she quickly ran past Tara's Touch and the fading leaders.

Bright Gold's win streak started June 25 in the Buckland Stakes at Colonial Downs.

Eppler, a longtime Maryland veteran, has won numerous stakes on her home circuit but may be best known as the original trainer of Victory Gallop, the 1998 Belmont Stakes winner. The Franklin County win came with just her second starter at Keeneland. "It's quite a thrill," she said.

Unbridled Sidney left out of field

The favorite in the Franklin County might well have been Unbridled Sidney, but no one will ever know for sure - she did not draw in off the also-eligible list. Unbridled Sidney is a stakes winner, which normally would have gotten her in, but it just so happened that all 12 who were entered also had won stakes.

Unbridled Sidney is still eligible for a four-other-than allowance, whereas the 10 who made the race already have passed through that condition. Because the race is governed by condition eligibility, Unbridled Sidney was excluded.

"It's very frustrating," said Ronny Werner, trainer of Unbridled Sidney. "I've been waiting for this race for two months."

All eyes on son of Seattle Slew

As one of the last foals by the great Seattle Slew, Simply Because has an unspoken pressure to leave a positive last impression on Slew's many fans. A victory Saturday in the ultra-deep Raven Run Stakes clearly would help in that regard.

"It's a very proud legacy she has to uphold," said Bob Feld, who bought Simply Because for $135,000 at the 2003 Keeneland September sales for John and Jeri Amerman. "The Amermans are really excited about this race because the filly is doing so well. Her last two works at Hollywood were great."

Trained by David Hofmans, Simply Because earned a 102 Beyer Speed Figure in a front-running victory in her last start, a restricted stakes at Del Mar on Sept. 7. Patrick Valenzuela was aboard for that race and is tentatively scheduled to ride again Saturday.

Churchill's Ack Ack field shapes up

With the Churchill Downs fall meet just around the corner, racing secretary Doug Bredar is getting a handle on the Grade 3 Ack Ack Handicap, a 7 1/2-furlong race that helps to open the meet Oct. 30.

Bredar said Nick Zito and Todd Pletcher both figure to have a starter or two for the Ack Ack. Those horses would join Artemus Sunrise, Britt's Jules, Sterling Gold, Wild Tale, and "probably a few others," said Bredar.

Churchill runs through Nov. 26.

Honor in War could be a millionaire

Honor in War could surpass the $1 million earnings mark by running first or second Saturday in the eighth race, a $58,000 classified allowance at 1 1/8 miles on turf. David Flores, who rode Honor in War to his greatest win, the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve in 2003, has the mount Saturday.

Honor in War, unraced in seven months, has been bothered by chronic quarter cracks for most of his 27-race career. "He's finally healthy again," said Chris Kurtz, vice president of racing operations for 3rd Turn Stables, the Louisville syndicate that owns the horse.

* Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens will sign copies of his autobiography, "The Perfect Ride," before the Saturday program in the Keeneland gift shop.