01/10/2002 1:00AM

Churchill asks high security


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Churchill Downs and the city of Louisville have asked the newly created Office of Homeland Security for special security status for the 128th Kentucky Derby on May 4, track officials said Thursday.

If approved, the Derby would become just the third sporting event to be granted special event status, following the Super Bowl and Winter Olympics, both to be held next month.

The request, which was prompted primarily by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, also includes two accompanying Derby events, the Kentucky Oaks and downtown Pegasus Parade.

"Security at the Derby is always of the highest priority, something we assess and reassess on a constant basis," said John Asher, a spokesman for the track.

Churchill long has worked with such agencies as the Secret Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and state and city police units on its security measures for the Derby. There is no deadline on a response to the Homeland request, said Asher.