07/02/2003 11:00PM

Champali finds soft spot


ALTOONA, Iowa - Champali, who is 4 for 6 this year while racing exclusively in stakes company, has landed in his softest spot in months in Saturday's $250,000 Iowa Derby at Prairie Meadows. A field of six was entered in the 1 1/16-mile race.

Champali, who is trained by Greg Foley, enters the Iowa Derby off a two-length victory over Lone Star Sky in the one-mile Northern Dancer at Churchill on June 14. In his previous start, Champali finished second in the Grade 3 Derby Trial, beaten 2 1/2 lengths by graded stakes winner Midas Eyes.

Overall, Champali sports a record of 7-1-1 from 10 starts and earnings of $402,836. The Iowa Derby looks like an ideal spot for Champali to add another $150,000 to his bankroll. Foley has named Cornelio Velasquez, the leading rider at Churchill Downs, to ride Champali for the first time.

Champali is the co-highweight with Excessivepleasure at 122 pounds

Excessivepleasure enters the derby following the first off-the-board finish in his seven-race career; he was well beaten in the Grade 2 Laz Barrera at Hollywood Park on May 26. He scored his biggest victory two starts prior in the $500,000 WinStar Derby at Sunland Park on March 30. After looking beaten around the last turn, he re-rallied under jockey Pat Day to score a neck victory in the 1 1/16-mile race.

Excessivepleasure has worked well since the Barrera, including a bullet five-furlong move in 58.60 seconds at Hollywood on June 29.

Doug O'Neill, who holds a big lead in the Hollywood Park trainer standings, has named Jon Court to ride Excessivepleasure, and the pair figure to be part of what should be a contested early pace.

Saint Liam merits a long look. After winning his maiden in his second career start, in March at Gulfstream Park, Saint Liam finished eighth in the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park.

Trainer Tony Reinstedler gave Saint Liam plenty of time to recover from the Arkansas trip and returned him to the allowance ranks May 25 at Churchill. Saint Liam ran into eventual Ohio Derby winner Wild and Wicked in that race and finished second, beaten 2 3/4 lengths. In Saint Liam's most recent start, he scored a 9 1/4-length win over entry level allowance company at Churchill. Craig Perret will be in from Kentucky to ride.

Completing the field are Absent Friend, who is unbeaten in two United States starts; Mick, stakes-placed several times; and overmatched Iowa-bred Iams Bound.