11/01/2003 12:00AM

Crafty Shaw one to beat


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The featured ninth race at Churchill Downs on Tuesday, an allowance for older horse at 1 1/16 miles, is officially named the Believe It. It might as well be called the Mini Clark.

A stakes-quality allowance race, it is a prep for the Grade 2, $500,000 Clark Handicap here Nov. 28. All eight starters are at least stakes-placed, and four - Crafty Shaw, Danthebluegrassman, Pass Rush, and Bonus Pack - are graded-stakes winners.

Crafty Shaw, winner of the Grade 3 Turfway Park Fall Championship, is the horse to beat, even after a poor showing at Keeneland on Oct. 22. Racing on turf for the second time in his career, he set the pace but failed to quicken in the stretch. He finished fifth, beaten five lengths.

"We were ducking Tenpins and those kinds of horses," said trainer Pete Vestal, explaining why he opted to run Crafty Shaw in a turf allowance instead of the Fayette Stakes on dirt later in the Keeneland meet. "He made the lead, but he never got out of a gallop. We tried that avenue and hit a brick wall."

Returned to dirt Tuesday, Crafty Shaw should return to his best. A graded stakes winner in each of the past three years, he is in the midst of a productive fall campaign. Besides winning the Turfway Park Fall Championship, he was third in the Kentucky Cup Classic behind Perfect Drift and Congaree on Sept. 27.

Although those were powerful races, his strongest race came over the Churchill Downs strip a year ago, when he finished second, beaten a head by Lido Palace, in the 2002 Clark Handicap. Craig Perret will ride on Tuesday.

A surprising entrant is Pass Rush, who races on short rest after finishing second in the opening-day Ack Ack Stakes on Oct. 26.

"He came out of that race really good," said trainer Pat Byrne. "We freshened him and gave him the summer off. So we thought we'd look for a race to try to win."

The difficulty is that Tuesday's feature is every bit as good as the Ack Ack, a race that was won by Cappuchino. Besides Crafty Shaw, Pass Rush will face a field that includes many horses with stakes experience in 2003.

Danthebluegrassman, unplaced in his last two starts, should rebound with a competitive race. He has shown an affinity for Churchill Downs, winning three of four starts on the main track. Those wins resulted in Beyer Speed Figures of 104, 107, and 102. He was most recently ninth in the Grade 2 Pat O'Brien Handicap at Del Mar.