10/29/2008 11:00PM

Elope flies in for this spot


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Bruce Levine has had more than 8,000 starters in a 30-year training career, the vast majority coming in New York and nearby states. So when Levine went out of his way to send a filly named Elope to run Friday as the likely favorite in the feature race at Churchill Downs, there was this obvious question: Why?

"There was a plane going out of here this week to Kentucky, and the owner came across this little stake at Churchill at the exact distance he wanted for her - six furlongs," Levine said from New York. "It all just kind of came together."

Atlanta real-estate magnate Peter Blum is the breeder and owner of Elope, a lightly raced 4-year-old Gone West filly who brings sparkling credentials to the $61,000 Dream Supreme, an overnight handicap that anchors the Halloween card as the ninth of 10 races.

After winning her first two starts, a maiden race at Turfway Park and an entry-level allowance at Saratoga, Elope finished second to a former Eclipse champion, Indian Blessing, in her only other race, the Grade 2 Gallant Bloom at Belmont Park in September.

Levine, who is winless with four starters in Kentucky in his career - three at the 1998 Keeneland spring meet, and one last fall at Churchill - said Elope arrived Tuesday at Churchill by charter plane.

"She'd been training good here," he said. "I don't know how she'll handle that surface because it's a little different than New York. But she seems to adapt. She's a real laid-back kind of filly. We'll hope for the best."

Elope, with Julien Leparoux to ride, will carry 118 pounds and break from post 4 while facing seven other fillies and mares in the Dream Supreme.

Probably her top challengers are the two topweights: Adhrhythm (post 1, Kent Desormeaux, 121 pounds) and Palanka City (post 5, Rene Douglas, 120). Of those, Palanka City appears most dangerous, having won three stakes from her last five starts, the Prima Donna at Oaklawn and the Miss Preakness at Pimlico in the spring, and the Regal Rumor at Hawthorne in her most recent start Sept. 27.

Two allowances (races 6 and 8) also are carded Friday.

Churchill and the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association are co-sponsoring a college scholarship raffle Friday. Ten $1,000 scholarships will be raffled off throughout the day.