11/26/2002 1:00AM

Clark is Lido Palace's big race

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Because Lido Palace was bred in Chile and would require a steep supplementary fee to compete in the Breeders' Cup, the connections of the 5-year-old horse have chosen to bypass the last two runnings of the BC Classic.

To fill that late October hole in his schedule this season, Lido Palace instead ran at Belmont Park in a classified allowance race, which he won, although not as easily as his 1-5 odds might suggest. With that prep under his belt, Lido Palace arrived here Monday to run in what essentially will be his Breeders' Cup - Friday's $400,000 Clark Handicap.

Lido Palace is one of about

10 horses expected to run in the Grade 2 Clark, a 1 1/8-mile race that has become the annual highlight of the Churchill fall meet. Owned by Amerman Racing and trained by Bobby Frankel, Lido Palace has been one of the most successful and consistent horses in the North American handicap ranks the past 18 months, and he surely will be a solid favorite to add substantially to his $2.4 million bankroll.

Lido Palace, with Jorge Chavez to ride, will carry high weight of 121 pounds in the Clark. The rest of the prospective lineup is Tenpins, 118, Robby Albarado; Dollar Bill, 117, Mark Guidry; Gander, 116, Richard Migliore; Crafty Shaw, 115, James Lopez; Generous Rosi, 114, Larry Melancon; Hero's Tribute, 114, Edgar Prado; Perfect Drift, 114, Jon Court; Najran, 113, Pat Day; Neon Shadow, 113, Lonnie Meche; and American Style, 110, Shane Sellers.

Several Clark horses have gone through final preps in recent days, including Crafty Shaw, who went three furlongs Monday in a bullet 34.20 seconds.

Perfect Drift, the gelding who finished last in the BC Classic, missed two days of training because of a minor foot ailment but trainer Murray Johnson said "we're ready to run" Friday.

Probably the biggest crowd of the fall meet will turn out Friday, a traditionally well-attended day.

Softly? Why not?

Ian Wilkes was just joking, but with the way things have been going for him and his boss, Carl Nafzger, a ridiculous scenario that would favor Softly in the Falls City Handicap might actually unfold here Thursday.

"A half-mile in 44?" Wilkes asked with a sly grin. "What do you think?"

If for no other reason than almost everything has seemed to go perfectly for the Nafzger stable this fall, a ruinous duel between favorites Take Charge Lady and Allamerican Bertie doesn't seem farfetched.

Going into the final five days of the meet, Nafzger had won 13 races, a remarkable total considering the stable had had just 30 starters.

Softly, who posted a 23-1 upset in the one-mile Churchill Distaff on Nov. 9, "hasn't gone backward" since that triumph, said Wilkes.

"This is probably a better class of horses Thursday, and now we're going two turns," said Wilkes. "But she runs good on this track, and she's had a great year," winning 6 of 11 races. "She could run another big one if things went her way."

Cojet beats Binthebest

Cojet got a perfect trip under Danny Coa to post a 1 1/2-length victory over favored Binthebest in the Tuesday feature here, a $58,200 allowance at 6 1/2 furlongs.

Cojet, a 3-year-old Unbridled's Song colt trained by Bob Holthus, returned $19.20 after finishing in 1:16.50 over a fast track. Binthebest finished another 1 1/4 lengths ahead of Dream Run while Keats, the early pacesetter in the field of six, faded to last.

Earlier Tuesday, Ken McPeek swept the early daily double, putting him in a 13-13 tie with Carl Nafzger atop the trainer standings with four days remaining. McPeek saddled Macy B. and Mythical Trick to win the first two races.

McPeek takes triple aim at Ky. Jockey Club

McPeek, who won the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes last year with Repent, has three chances to repeat this year in the $200,000 race. McPeek will start Collateral Damage, White Cat, and Ten Cents a Shine, all of whom have already won at the meet.

McPeek said Ten Cents a Shine, a Devil His Due colt who made a winning career debut earlier in the meet, may be the most physically impressive of the three, "but obviously he doesn't have much experience. The other two have more seasoning and have quite a bit of talent. Any of the three wouldn't really surprise me."

Because of separate ownership and because the KJC purse exceeds the state-mandated minimum of $100,000, all three horses will run as separate betting interests. Other probables for the KJC are Champali and Alke, the respective one-two finishers in the Iroquois Stakes, and about four or five more.

The KJC Stakes, one of North America's top post-Breeders' Cup races for 2-year-old colts and geldings, helps close out the 30-day meet Saturday, along with its filly counterpart, the $200,000 Golden Rod Stakes. Both are Grade 2 races at 1 1/16 miles.

The Golden Rod should draw keen interest because it is the third career start of My Boston Gal, who figures as a solid favorite for Nafzger. My Boston Gal has been extremely impressive in winning her first two starts.

Other Golden Rod probables include Belle of Perintown and Star of Atticus, the respective one-two finishers in the Pocahontas Stakes, and maybe three or four more fillies.

Next up, Turfway

Following the close of the Churchill meet, live action on the Kentucky circuit moves Sunday to Turfway Park in Florence, Ky. The first stakes at Turfway is the $50,000 Holiday Inaugural on Dec. 7.

- Jockey Marlon St. Julien will ride at Turfway this winter for the first time, according to agent Larry Kelly. In previous seasons, St. Julien rode at the Fair Grounds in his home state of Louisiana. Kelly said that his other client, John B. Luzzi Jr., is scheduled to return early in the Turfway meet after recovering from a broken collarbone suffered early in the Churchill meet.