11/05/2001 12:00AM

Fans get pleasant surprise

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Tuesday isn't exactly known as the day you showcase your finest Thoroughbreds, either at Churchill Downs or virtually any other track in North America. So when a couple of stakes-caliber fillies surfaced in the eighth race here Tuesday, most horseplayers might have been mildly surprised.

De Bertie, winner of the Rampart and Sabin handicaps, and Maltese Superb, most recently second in the Grade 3 Matron at Arlington Park, are the principals in a field of six fillies and mares in the feature race, a $59,800 allowance at 1 1/16 miles.

"Races with 'money' conditions like this, you usually have to run against tough ones," said Carl Bowman, trainer of Maltese Superb.

For Bowman, a victory Tuesday would perpetuate what has been another solid year for his underrated stable. Despite the loss of his star, Lu Ravi, to retirement after a runner-up effort in the Grade 1 Apple Blossom in the spring, Bowman has fared well with such horses as Maltese Superb, Neon Shadow, E Z Glory, and On Your Mark.

Maltese Superb is using Tuesday's race as a possible prep for the $250,000 Falls City Handicap on Nov. 22, said Bowman.

De Bertie will be making her first start since back-to-back wins in the Grade 3 Sabin and Grade 3 Rampart last winter at Gulfstream Park.

Spain to pass Falls City

Spain, who narrowly missed a repeat victory in the Breeders' Cup Distaff, has been ruled out of the Falls City, trainer D. Wayne Lukas said Saturday.

Lukas said Spain will run instead in the Dec. 15 Bayakoa at Hollywood Park. The filly's owners, The Thoroughbred Corp., believe running Spain in the Falls City "might be running her back a little quick," said Lukas.

Her defection voids what could have been a rematch with Distaff winner Unbridled Elaine.

Repent will run at meet

Trainer Ken McPeek said Repent, runner-up in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, likely will run in the closing-day feature, the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes on Nov. 24.

Take Charge Lady, sixth in the BC Juvenile Fillies, also is likely to represent McPeek in the KJC's filly counterpart on closing day, the Grade 2 Golden Rod.

* Churchill got an extraordinary response to the Pat Day bobblehead-doll giveaway Saturday. Final attendance was estimated at 15,000.