05/20/2003 11:00PM

Byrne, 'Gold' need some luck


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Trainer Pat Byrne had poor luck here Sunday when Desert Gold had to be scratched from the feature race. Byrne is hoping for a reversal of fortune Saturday when Desert Gold makes her grass debut in what is expected to be a large field of fillies and mares in the $150,000 Early Times Mint Julep Handicap.

"We're going to try to make lemonade out of a lemon," Byrne said.

With Pat Day aboard, Desert Gold knocked open the front of her gate while awaiting the start of the Sunday feature, an allowance race with conditions that seemed to suit Desert Gold perfectly. After Day moved aside for an assistant starter to retrieve Desert Gold, the filly was able to maneuver out of range, and after eluding an outrider and hitting full stride, she was ordered scratched from a race ultimately won by longshot Southern Surprise.

"You wait for months for a spot like that, then bad luck gets you," Byrne said. "We'll just have to do some good Saturday. She's ready to run, so we'll run her, even though it means running on grass for the first time against some really nice fillies."

Desert Gold, a 4-year-old Seeking the Gold filly owned by Stonerside Stable, has won 4 of 7 starts, all on dirt.

Most of the assigned highweights are expected to run in the Grade 3 Mint Julep, which goes at 1 1/8 miles on grass. The probable field includes Cellars Shiraz, 120 pounds; Quick Tip, 119; San Dare, 119; Stylish, 117; Kiss the Devil, 115; Crystal Sea, 114; Guana, 114; and Presumed Innocent, 113.

El Sysco Kid an interesting juvenile

The traditional Memorial Day feature, the $150,000 Kentucky Breeders' Cup Stakes, is shaping up with maybe seven or eight 2-year-olds, none of whom is more intriguing than El Sysco Kid.

Trainer Ernie Retamoza, based at the Trackside training center, selected what appeared to be an absurdly ambitious spot for the career debut of El Sysco Kid - the Three Chimneys Juvenile on the Kentucky Derby undercard. Predictably, El Sysco Kid was the longest shot in the field, being dispatched at 24-1, but the colt nearly pulled the shocker of the weekend when he forced all the pace and finished second, just 1 1/4 lengths behind the victorious Limehouse.

In the 5 1/2-furlong Kentucky BC, El Sysco Kid is expected to face Another Freddy, Cuvee, Exploit Lad, Voladero, and maybe a few others.

Lone Star Sky could try turf

Lone Star Sky, most recently 15th in the Kentucky Derby, would be switching surfaces if he makes his next start in the Jefferson Cup, a 1 1/8-mile turf race here June 7.

Trainer Tom Amoss said Lone Star Sky had a strong recent workout on the Churchill turf course and that moving to the turf is an attractive option.

Posse to go in Belmont's Riva Ridge

Posse, winner of the Lafayette and Matt Winn Stakes in his last two starts, will race next in the seven-furlong Riva Ridge Stakes on the Belmont Stakes undercard, said trainer Steve Asmussen.

Asmussen also is sending Lady Tak, his star 3-year-old filly, to New York that weekend to run in the June 6 Acorn Stakes.

Consistency likely to pass Foster

Trainer Tom Proctor doesn't have a specific race in mind for Consistency, the 4-year-old gelding who ran his career record to 4 for 5 with an allowance win here last weekend. Proctor said the June 14 Stephen Foster Handicap is highly unlikely for Consistency, adding, "We'll take a look at some other spots. I really don't know right now."

The long-range likely favorite for the $750,000 Foster Handicap is Mineshaft, the Churchill-based 4-year-old who notched the first Grade 1 win of his career last Friday in the Pimlico Special.

* Although they were in use during the final three days of Kentucky Derby weekend, the new fourth-floor sky suites situated just above what formerly was known as the Churchill grandstand are closed again to "put on the finishing touches," said John Asher, Churchill's vice president.

All three floors in the nearly completed grandstand sky suites - the main focus of Phase 1 of the track's $121 million renovation - are scheduled to be ready for the Churchill fall meet. Phase 2, which primarily will involve the demolition and rebuilding of what is now the clubhouse section, will get under way soon after the spring meet ends July 6.