06/10/2002 11:00PM

Congaree in, Hail the Chief out of Foster


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Congaree is in, but Hail the Chief is out of the $750,000 Stephen Foster Handicap.

Trainer Bob Baffert said Tuesday that, despite his objections to Congaree carrying high weight of 121 pounds, he has decided to forgo a trip back to California by running the colt in the Foster Handicap. The Grade 1 Foster will be run Saturday at Churchill Downs.

Meanwhile, trainer Niall O'Callaghan can only wish he had Baffert's options. O'Callaghan reported Tuesday morning at Churchill that Hail the Chief, who recorded Beyer Speed Figures of 115 and 112 while easily winning the National Jockey Club Handicap and Hawthorne Gold Cup in his last two starts, has been taken out of training for the next 30 days after suffering a mild ankle sprain last weekend.

Hail the Chief, a 5-year-old owned by Peter Crane, came out of a Friday workout "a little off" in his left front ankle, said O'Callaghan, who was in New York Friday to run Wiseman's Ferry in the Belmont Stakes Saturday. "We had him medicated afterward, and he was walking sound again."

Not satisfied that Hail the Chief had recovered sufficiently over the weekend, O'Callaghan shipped him Monday to Dr. Bobby Hunt at the Hagyard-Davidson-McGee equine clinic in Lexington, where the horse was examined. "There's no filling, no joint damage, no fractures," said O'Callaghan. "He's just flexing sore in the ankle. He'll come back here [Wednesday], and we'll walk him for 30 days."

O'Callaghan, who won the Foster last year with Guided Tour, said the defection was "obviously disappointing" because he believed Hail the Chief had the ability to upset Congaree and the other probable favorite, Street Cry.

"You have your highs in racing, but you also have your lows," he said.

With Hail the Chief out, a field of nine older horses is firming up for the 1 1/8-mile Foster, which will be run as a Grade 1 for the first time.

With weights and riders, the probable starters are Congaree, 121, Pat Day; Street Cry, 120, Jerry Bailey; Invisible Ink, 116, John Velazquez; Tenpins, 115, Craig Perret; Unshaded, 115, Jon Court; Dollar Bill, 114, Mark Guidry; Parade Leader, 113, Calvin Borel; Connected, 112, Larry Melancon; and Slider, 111, Jorge Chavez.

Two Foster starters had their final serious preps Tuesday over a fast Churchill track: Unshaded went five furlongs in 59.40 seconds, and Parade Leader breezed a half-mile in 49.40.

The Foster is part of a one-hour CBS broadcast that begins at 5 p.m. Eastern. Other races in the package are the Dallas Turf Cup, Hollywood Oaks, and Brooklyn Handicap.

Three other stakes will be run here Saturday, and with the Foster, they will make up an all-stakes pick four. The Foster will be the 10th of 11 races, with post time set for 5:44.

In Saturday's other stakes:

* With trainer D. Wayne Lukas naming Chavez back on Spain, Bailey has picked up the mount on Dancethruthedawn for trainer Mark Frostad in the $300,000, Grade 2 Fleur de Lis Handicap.

Spain, who became the all-time leading filly-mare earner when she captured the May 3 Louisville Breeders' Cup in her last start, is the 121-pound highweight in what figures to be a short- to medium-sized field.

Forest Secrets, the beaten favorite in the Louisville BC, and With Ability, who will accompany Street Cry and several other horses on a Thursday flight from New York, are among the other probables for the 1 1/8-mile Fleur de Lis.

* For the $100,000 Northern Dancer Stakes, Bailey has picked up the mount on Danthebluegrassman, the colt who was the subject of controversy when Baffert entered then scratched him from the May 4 Kentucky Derby.

Danthebluegrassman, owned by Mike Pegram, has not raced since the April 6 Santa Anita Derby but has had several workouts in recent weeks. He is expected to face a short but tough field in the Northern Dancer, a one-mile race restricted to 3-year-olds, with Sky Terrace and Stephentown, the respective one-two finishers in a recent prep, being the probable favorites.

* With Day keeping the mount on Styleistick for trainer Bill Mott, Bailey will ride Distant Valley for O'Callaghan in the last of the four stakes, the $150,000 Regret Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles on turf.