10/06/2003 11:00PM

Champali can hit front, stay there

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - No one likes to go to a party and find four others with the same style. That is exactly what happened to Champali when he raced in last month's Kentucky Cup Sprint at Turfway Park.

Matched against a foursome of horses with similar front-running tendencies, he was unable to clear them and wound up hung five wide from an outside post. Despite the ground lost, he turned in a competitive effort in a fast race, finishing third behind Cajun Beat and Clock Stopper.

Thursday at Keeneland in the $100,000 Perryville Stakes, Champali stands out from the crowd. He appears the controlling speed of the Perryville, which will be contested over the Beard Course distance of seven furlongs and 184 feet.

The race has much less pace than the six-furlong Kentucky Cup Sprint. Clock Stopper, Your Bluffing, and Zydeco Affair, three of Champali's five opponents, are deep closers. The remaining pair, Ballado Chieftan and Boston Park, have gone to the front only in slower-paced races at a mile or longer.

"This is a good distance," said Champali's trainer, Greg Foley. "I've always felt his best races come out of the chute."

Even if another horse flashes unexpected speed, Champali can adapt. He won the Grade 3 Iroquois at Churchill Downs in wire-to-wire fashion last fall, and ran well from pace-pressing positions in the Turfway Park Prevue, John Battaglia, and Northern Dancer Stakes. He was also second to Midas Eyes in the Derby Trial after chasing him throughout. Pat Day will ride.

Champali, who won at Keeneland last October, must repel the late bid of Clock Stopper to win. Clock Stopper finished 3 1/2 lengths in front of him when he closed for second in the Kentucky Cup Sprint.

That afternoon, Clock Stopper finished three-quarters of a length behind Cajun Beat, who blazed six furlongs in 1:09.54 over a track that played slower than normal. Cajun Beat is being pointed for the Breeders' Cup Sprint.

Clock Stopper's runner-up finish earned him a Beyer Speed Figure of 111, one race after he received a Beyer Figure of 106 for an allowance victory at Saratoga. None of his opponents, including Champali, has a Beyer Figure of over 104. Robby Albarado will ride Clock Stopper for trainer Dallas Stewart.

The four remaining runners appear to be outsiders. Ballado Chieftan comes off a fast maiden victory, Boston Park has not raced since winning the Whirlaway at Aqueduct in February, and Your Bluffing and Zydeco Affair return following distant fifth-place finishes in the Jerome and Super Derby, respectively.