05/27/2004 11:00PM

Dr. Harthill hospitalized

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Renowned veterinarian Dr. Alex Harthill was resting comfortably Friday after being hospitalized the previous afternoon with what friends said turned out to be high blood pressure.

Trainer Jinks Fires, a longtime friend, said Friday that Harthill began feeling very poor Thursday afternoon and eventually was transported to Jewish Hospital.

"The doctors found that his blood pressure was very high, and maybe that's the reason we thought he might have been having a stroke," said Fires. "But they stabilized him in quick order, and he's doing well now. We're hoping he'll be out of the hospital by [Saturday]."

Fires said Harthill was working in his office, just outside the Churchill Downs stable gate, when he became stricken.

"One of his assistants called me from over there, and then Doc actually came over to the backside to do some work, stubborn ol' guy that he is," said Fires. "That's when we had him taken downtown right away."

Harthill, 79, has been practicing since the early 1950's and has long been widely recognized as one of the top equine practitioners in North American racing history. In recent months he has scaled back his work schedule to some degree, although he still spends a considerable amount of time on the Churchill backstretch.

Harthill told one friend that he expected to be back working by Monday.

Stephen Foster field takes shape

The Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap, the annual highlight of the post-Kentucky segment of the Churchill spring meet, is shaping up with its usual top-class field. The list of prospective starters for the $750,000 race is headed by Southern Image, Peace Rules, and Perfect Drift.

The Foster headlines a blockbuster card here June 12. In all, six stakes will be run, including the Grade 2 Fleur de Lis Handicap and three Grade 3 events.

Nominations for all six races were to close Saturday. Weight assignments for the Foster and Fleur de Lis will be made on June 5.

Ballingarry gets 120 for Louisville

Ballingarry is expected to be the starting highweight in the third and final Grade 3 stakes to be run here this weekend, the $100,000 Louisville Handicap on Monday. Ballingarry, a Grade 1 winner now based in California with trainer Laura de Seroux, will carry 120 pounds in the 1 3/8-mile turf race.

Other probable starters for the Louisville include Kim Loves Bucky, 117, and Art Variety, 115.

Because there will be racing here Monday, normally a dark day, there will be no racing Wednesday, normally a race day. A four-day race week will commence Thursday, with Saturday's $125,000 Kentucky Breeders' Cup, a 5 1/2-furlong race for 2-year-olds, being the lone stakes race during that span.

Owner's luck comes in bunches

Just in case Brad Anderson needed the money, it may have been a good thing that his filly El Damien rallied to win the third race here Friday, a maiden claiming sprint for fillies.

But it's highly doubtful that Anderson, who lives in Columbus, Ohio, was in dire need of $17,980, which is what El Damien earned with her victory. On May 19, Anderson won $1,312,808 as one of two winning ticketholders in the Hollywood Park pick six. The total pool that afternoon was more than $4.1 million, a Hollywood record.

El Damien, an El Prado filly trained by David Carroll, was making her second career start and was ridden by Shane Sellers.