06/12/2001 11:00PM

Extra distance helps Royal Fair

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Maybe if the Louisville Breeders' Cup had been a couple of jumps longer, Royal Fair would have won, and not Saudi Poetry. But the race, on Derby Eve, was run at exactly 1 1/16 miles, with Saudi Poetry, a 14-1 shot, desperately holding on to beat the late-running Royal Fair, a 19-1 shot, by a head.

So when the top six finishers in the Louisville BC field return Saturday in the $300,000 Fleur de Lis Handicap, a 1 1/8-mile race that is the richest supporting event on the Stephen Foster undercard, won't Royal Fair be a major contender?

"We're hoping so," said assistant Jack Bohannan, who oversees the Churchill Downs string trained by New York-based Rusty Arnold. "The extra sixteenth should help, and she really likes this racetrack. She's trained great since her last race, and the way she's been working, I have to think she's going to run her race again."

Besides Saudi Poetry and Royal Fair, the Grade 3 Fleur de Lis also is expected to attract the third- through sixth-place finishers in the Louisville BC: Dreams Gallore, Bordelaise, Asher, and Secret Status.

The most intriguing returnee is Secret Status, who failed to rally from mid-pack as the 4-5 favorite. Trainer Neil Howard has been mystified as to why the filly was so dull, but he believes her recent training suggests she will redeem herself.

"I thought she was on her game for the last race," said Howard. "Fillies can be a little bit puzzling sometimes. But she looks good and she's doing good."

Secret Status will carry high weight of 119 pounds, spotting four to seven pounds to the five others exiting the Louisville BC. The only two newcomers expected to run are Maltese Superb and Humble Clerk, both assigned 111.

The other co-features Saturday are the $150,000 Regret Stakes for 3-year-old turf fillies and the $100,000 Northern Dancer Handicap for 3-year-olds at a mile on dirt.

* The probable lineup for the Foster Handicap remained at eight Thursday. Expected are Captain Steve, 123; Unshaded, 118; Graeme Hall, 117; Brahms, 114; Duckhorn, 114; Connected, 111, Da Devil 111; and Jadada, 111. A possible entrant is Chicago Six, 113.

CDSN pick four postponed

While Churchill is offering a pick four on its four Saturday stakes, the return of a similar bet packaging races from throughout the Churchill Downs Simulcasting Network has been indefinitely postponed.

The CDSN pick four - using one race each from Churchill, Calder, Hollywood, and Arlington - was tentatively scheduled to debut when Arlington opened. But a Churchill spokesman said several hurdles have arisen and that there are no confirmed plans to relaunch the bet next week or anytime during the current Churchill meet, which ends July 8.

Bailey, Day have strong mounts

The stakes mounts for the two Hall of Fame jockeys in action here Saturday:

Jerry Bailey: Captain Steve (Foster), Bordelaise (Fleur de Lis), La Vida Loca (Regret) Global Gait (Northern Dancer).

Pat Day: Brahms (Foster), Secret Status (Fleur de Lis), Bold Answer (Regret), Scorpion (Northern Dancer).

* This is the first time since the purse for the Foster was increased to $750,000-added that the Kentucky Derby Alumni ceremonies are not being held the same day. The Alumni Day and enriched Foster were unveiled together in 1998. As a sort of trade-off for canceling Alumni Day, track officials packaged four stakes into one day, allowing it to become the second-richest day at Churchill (besides Breeders' Cup days), behind only the Kentucky Derby.

* A field of six older horses, including two former West Coast standouts, David Copperfield and Bet on Red, will clash in the Friday feature, a $59,800 allowance at 1 1/16 miles. Twilight first post is 3 p.m. Eastern.

* Trainer Dallas Stewart is mulling over the next start for Dollar Bill, who exited his fourth-place finish in the Belmont Stakes, "in great shape, he really did," said Stewart.