06/16/2007 12:00AM

Chelokee puts second effort into victory


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - As Michael Matz watched the stretch run unfold in the Northern Dancer Breeders' Cup Stakes, he and his family grew increasingly quiet in their third-floor box at Churchill Downs. Chelokee, the even-money favorite representing Matz and owner Centennial Farms in the Grade 3 race, had been passed by Zanjero, who seemed poised for victory.

But then Chelokee re-rallied near the rail, and as he nudged ahead in the final 20 yards to post a neck victory in the $223,800 Northern Dancer, Matz and his clan were rooting with fervor.

"Man, I thought he was beat!" Matz exclaimed as Chelokee galloped out under Ramon Dominguez. "Oh, man!"

Chelokee returned $4 after finishing 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.46 over a fast track. Zanjero, the 4-1 third choice under Shaun Bridgmohan, finished another 2 1/4 lengths ahead of Sam P. in a field of eight 3-year-olds.

Chelokee now has won two stakes since finishing third in the Florida Derby, with an easy score in the Barbaro Stakes at Pimlico coming four weeks before the Northern Dancer. The colt now has won 4 of 8 starts overall.

The one-two finishers are both colts by Cherokee Run.

Mint Julep: Quite a Bride all the way

Quite a Bride ($7.60) figured as the lone speed in the Grade 3, $164,100 Mint Julep Handicap after Rich Fantasy was scratched early in the day, and true to form, the 4-year-old filly was able to "walk the dog," setting a turf-course record after going unchallenged in the 1 1/16-mile turf race.

Ridden by Robby Albarado and trained by Bill Mott, Quite a Bride drew off from her closest pursuer, Magnificent Song, turning for home before crossing the wire 2 1/4 lengths in front. Magnificent Song finished second, another 3 1/2 lengths before Danzon, the 4-5 favorite who never launched a serious threat after stumbling at the start.

Quite a Bride, owned by Haras Santa Maria de Araras, was the 121-pound highweight in a field of six fillies and mares. She finished in 1:40.70 over firm turf, breaking the 2001 record of 1:40.82 set by Ever With You, and now has won 7 of 13 starts.

Jefferson Cup: Inca King wires

Inca King, purchased privately by Heiligbrodt Racing Stable following an allowance victory at Keeneland on April 27, provided a quick return on investment, winning the Grade 3, $221,000 Jefferson Cup at Churchill Downs.

A 1 1/8-mile turf race, the Jefferson Cup was decided mere strides from the gate. Inca King, the lone front-runner in the seven-horse field, galloped easily to the lead and slowed the pace to a crawl, setting fractions of 24.80 seconds, 49.95, and 1:14.61 over the firm course.

Yet to be asked leaving the final turn, Inca King accelerated away from the opposition in the lane, winning by three lengths over favored Duveen. Jazz Quest was another neck back in third.

"When I called on him he just kicked it in," said jockey Shaun Bridgmohan.

The winner, a 3-year-old gelded son of Sir Cat, raced 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.94, paying $18.60.

His victory gave trainer Steve Asmussen his fourth win on the card. Asmussen also won the second race with Humble Janet, the third with Sok Sok, and the fourth with Simon Pure.

Although Inca King enjoyed a comfortable trip in the Jefferson Cup, the same was not true of Duveen. He grew rank when he was rated in third early behind the dawdling pace. He then lacked his usual kick after fighting jockey Mark Guidry, although he outgamed Jazz Quest late.

Regret: Good Mood finishes fast

Good Mood ($11), an Irish-bred trained by Patrick Biancone and ridden by Edgar Prado, launched a sensational stretch run to win going away in the Grade 3 Regret Stakes, the last of the six graded stakes Saturday. You Go West Girl was up in the final stride to take second from Dashes N Dots, who set all the pace until deep stretch.

Dreaming of Anna, the morning-line favorite, was an early scratch, leaving a field of 10 3-year-old fillies.

* Lemons Forever ($10.20), ridden by Julien Leparoux, won for the first time since her 47-1 upset in the 2006 Kentucky Oaks, powering to a 3 1/4-length victory in the Friday feature, a $55,000 turf allowance.

"She's back," said trainer Dallas Stewart. "The way she ran, I'd imagine we'll be looking to keep her on the grass." Lemons Forever broke an eight-race losing streak.

* Between the Fleur de Lis and Stephen Foster, the connections of 2007 Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense were honored in a winner's circle ceremony, as owner Jim Tafel, trainer Carl Nafzger, and jockey Calvin Borel were presented with their engraved trophies from the colt's May 5 triumph.

- additional reporting by Byron King