06/01/2008 11:00PM

Curlin drills strongly for Foster

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Curlin, the 2007 Horse of the Year, took another major step toward his next race, the Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap, when he drilled seven furlongs early Monday in 1:24.74 over a fast track at Churchill Downs.

Working in company with stablemate Sonoma Cat and with regular exercise rider Carmen Rosas aboard, Curlin was kept closest to the rail when breaking off at the seven-furlong pole on the clubhouse turn. He maintained a slight advantage through fractions of 12.95 seconds, 25.13, 37.16, 48.92, and 1:00.57, then began lengthening his stride and margin through the final quarter-mile, hitting the furlong pole in 1:12.51 and the wire in 1:24.74 while about six lengths ahead of his workmate. He galloped out a mile in 1:37.74 and 1 1/8 miles in 1:51.67.

Curlin, a 7 3/4-length winner of the March 29 Dubai World Cup in his last start, will be a heavy favorite in the $750,000 Foster Handicap on June 14 at Churchill.

"He's right on target," trainer Steve Asmussen said after the Monday work. "He gave us every indication that he's the Curlin who's spoiled us all along."

Curlin has worked every Monday at Churchill since April 28. Asmussen said preparations for the Foster will be completed next Monday with "an easy half-mile."

The Foster, one of six stakes to be run here June 14, is expected to get only a handful of challengers for Curlin. Among the other prospects for the 1 1/8-mile race are Grasshopper, Jonesboro, Brass Hat, Sam P., and the Asmussen-trained Red Rock Creek. Nominations for all six Foster Day stakes closed Saturday.

Amoss impressed with Indian Chant

Tom Amoss has more than 2,000 victories in his 21-year training career, but not many have been as thrilling as the one earned Saturday by Indian Chant in the 20th running of the Aristides.

Indian Chant pressed hot fractions, drew clear, then dug in tenaciously to hold off Noonmark by a head.

"It's a big win over a good bunch of horses," Amoss said. "I don't know what'll be next for him, but we're shooting for the stars."

Amoss cautioned that Indian Chant, a California-bred 5-year-old by Suggest, is not nominated to the Breeders' Cup. "I'm not going to step out there for now," he said, "but we're going to run in some big races and see where he fits."

Amoss won the filly-mare counterpart to the Aristides here the previous weekend, when Graeme Six won the Winning Colors. Amoss said he hopes to make the BC Filly and Mare Sprint with her.

Amoss had two wins here Saturday, then tacked on another with Duty Roster, his only starter on the Sunday card that began the second half of the 52-day spring meet. Into Wednesday, Amoss led the trainer standings with 18 wins, one more than Ken McPeek.

Acoma eyeing Alabama Stakes

Acoma, winner of the Grade 3 Dogwood on Saturday as the second-longest shot in a field of six 3-year-old fillies, likely will be pointed to the Grade 1 Alabama Stakes on Aug. 16 at Saratoga, said trainer David Carroll.

Acoma, whose female family includes such standouts as Althea, Arch, and Festival of Light, did not make her career debut until March 13.

"She had some gate issues and was immature," Carroll said. "She came up with a little injury in the fall, and we just decided to give her some time off. She came back to me in great shape, and we got her ready to run, and she's just gone from strength to strength."

Carroll is hoping the Dogwood serves as a springboard to something even bigger for him and jockey Robby Albarado, who rode Acoma. Carroll and Albarado will team together Saturday with Denis of Cork in the Belmont Stakes.

"We moved in with this one very quietly," Carroll said. "We're going to move into Belmont very quietly and hopefully cause a big scene."

Inca King stepping up to Firecracker

The victory by Inca King in the Opening Verse on Saturday likely earned him a berth in the Grade 2 Firecracker Handicap here July 4, Asmussen said.

"That's pretty deep water, but I think he deserves a chance," Asmussen said.

Inca King, purchased privately last year by the Heiligbrodt Racing Stable, is now 3 for 3 over the Churchill turf.

Ketchikan, My Pal Charlie drill

Trainer Al Stall Jr. engineered a racing rarity of sorts here Saturday morning when he worked the B. Wayne Hughes-owned duo of Ketchikan and My Pal Charlie in company, with both being credited with a half-mile in 48.60 seconds. Both colts finished second in the Louisiana Derby - Ketchikan in 2007, and My Pal Charlie in 2008.

Stall said both colts could race next on the Foster undercard, with My Pal Charlie eligible for the Northern Dancer Stakes, and Ketchikan possible for an allowance race.

Carnacks Choice suffers cut

Carnacks Choice, pulled up by Albarado about an eighth of a mile into the Aristides, apparently will be able to race again. Trainer Greg Foley said the 4-year-old colt suffered a cut just below the knee on his right foreleg but is fine otherwise. Albarado said he felt Carnacks Choice take "a funny step or something" shortly after the start.

Bargainwiththedevil wins in return

Bargainwiththedevil made a successful return to action after being off since his runaway victory last August in the Claiming Crown Iron Horse at Ellis Park. Representing owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey and trainer Mike Maker, Bargainwiththedevil won the Sunday opener at Churchill by four lengths as an odds-on favorite and was promptly claimed for $7,500 by owner Wayne Spalding and trainer Troy Newton, who now have the option of running the 6-year-old gelding back in the Iron Horse or the Express on Aug. 2 in the 10th Claiming Crown series at Canterbury Park in Minnesota.

Ramseys go on claiming spree

After losing Bargainwiththedevil via the claim box, the Ramseys and Maker went on an incredible buying spree to secure reinforcements.

They claimed the runaway winner of the second race, Flibberjibit. Then they claimed the first two finishers from the third race, Thundering Jill and Dont Lie. Then they took the first two finishers from the fourth race, Duty Roster and Field Commander. And then they took the winner of the fifth race, Smirk.

* The Super High Five returned a record $35,179.30 on the last race Sunday. This is the first meet Churchill has offered the Super High Five, a $1-minimum wager that requires bettors to pick the first five finishers in order.

* A pick-six carryover of $23,529 awaits horseplayers Wednesday at Churchill.