12/27/2005 12:00AM

Fate spares Palace Rumor

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When trainer Burl McBride decided not to ship Palace Rumor back to Ellis Park after she raced at Churchill Downs on Nov. 5, he might have saved her life.

That night, at about 2 a.m., a tornado ripped through the Ellis backstretch, and McBride took the worst of things. Two of his horses - horses he owned himself - were killed, and four others injured so badly that they could no longer race. The only one left standing was Palace Rumor, who was spending the night a couple hours away in Louisville, Ky.

"You scuffle around and finally find one that can run, and the next thing you know they're dead," McBride lamented Tuesday morning. "It didn't break me, but it sure took a hell of a dent out of my wallet. Plus, I loved those horses."

McBride, a lifelong horseman in his early 50's, said he's still shell-shocked by the disaster. "My mind's not been quite right," he said.

But there's no thought of leaving the game, McBride gradually is rebuilding, and Palace Rumor could lift the stable's fortunes by winning the featured ninth race Thursday at the Fair Grounds meet at Louisiana Downs. A 2-year-old filly purchased as a yearling for the bargain price of $5,000, Palace Rumor looks like the horse to beat in a one-mile turf race for entry-level allowance horses or $50,000 claimers.

McBride picked Palace Rumor out of the Keeneland September yearling sale, and racing for owners Corbet Bryant and Tim Garvin, she already has made almost six times her purchase price. Thursday, she runs for a $41,000 purse.

"We've had some nice fillies over the years, and we never had much money to go to the sales with," McBride said. "I was surprised this filly went for that little."

In a Dec. 4 race much like the Thursday feature, Palace Rumor surged to the front a furlong from the finish, but wound up second by a half-length. Palace Rumor has steadily improved all season; one more forward step and she could snare her second career win.

Seven others were entered in the race, but the Steve Asmussen-trained Cintarosa will run only on dirt. Among those meant for turf is Silver Navasha, a maiden facing winners, but a contender nonetheless. Third in a $50,000 turf stakes Oct. 8 at the regular Louisiana Downs meet, Silver Navasha finished fourth behind Palace Rumor in her last start, flattening out in the stretch after reaching contention on the far turn.

"She's a heavyset filly," trainer Al Stall said, "and I think that race should have tightened her up."