05/28/2001 11:00PM

Cooksey considers career change

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Jockey Patti Cooksey has become an outrider for the balance of the Churchill meet and is considering retirement to fill that role full time on the Kentucky circuit, joining her husband, outrider John Neal.

Cooksey, 43, has recorded the vast majority of her 2,200-plus victories on the Kentucky circuit. Briefly, in February 1988, she was the all-time leader among female jockeys before being overtaken in less than a week by Julie Krone.

At the Churchill meet, Cooksey's business had slowed to the point that she "wanted to take a little time to try this out," said Neal. "She won't go to Ellis Park [to be an outrider]. She might even ride again there. She'll just see how she likes it."

Churchill had been looking for an outrider since the May 6 death of lead outrider Glenn Webster. John Neal has become the lead outrider.

Big boys ready for Foster

Captain Steve and Unshaded both had sharp workouts Monday in preparation for their June 16 clash in the $750,000 Stephen Foster Handicap. Captain Steve breezed six furlongs in 1:12.60, while Unshaded went five furlongs in 1:02.20.

Captain Steve, trained by Bob Baffert, is expected to be a solid favorite in the Grade 2 Stephen Foster, which will be his first start since he won the March 24 Dubai World Cup.

Unshaded was a comfortable winner of a May 17 allowance in his first start since winning the Travers Stakes last August. The Monday work was "just what he needed," said Ian Wilkes, assistant to trainer Carl Nafzger.

As for field size for the Foster, stakes coordinator Donnie Richardson said that beyond Captain Steve and Unshaded, "I'm hustling. Nominations close Saturday. We're trying to get whoever else we can."

Strong Foster undercard

Saudi Poetry, upset winner of the Louisville Breeders' Cup on the Kentucky Oaks undercard for Baffert, will make her next start in the $300,000 Fleur de Lis Handicap, part of the Stephen Foster undercard.

Two other stakes, the $150,000 Regret Stakes and the $100,000 Northern Dancer Handicap, also will be run that day.

One more work for Ben

Buckle Down Ben probably will have one more workout before leaving on June 6 for the June 9 Belmont Stakes, said trainer D. Wayne Lukas.

Buckle Down Ben, ridden by Pat Day, won a one-mile allowance here Sunday in his first start since a poor effort in the March 24 Spiral Stakes.

"Pat never hit him and we still got a good, solid race," said Lukas.

Side Brush a non-starter

A starting-gate malfunction at the start of the sixth race Sunday led to a horse being declared a non-starter.

The gate for Side Brush opened a split-second late, causing the colt to lose several lengths at the start. Side Brush eventually made up the ground to contend for the lead, but tired to finish out of the money.

After an inquiry, the stewards determined that Side Brush had been unfairly compromised and ordered refunds on all wagers on him.

* Word Puzzle, winner of the the Green River Stakes at Keeneland last fall, has been retired because of a minor injury, said trainer Chuck Simon. The 3-year-old filly, owned by Ken and Sarah Ramsey, has been bred to Catienus, a sire also owned by the Ramseys.