06/18/2010 12:00AM

Field of 10 tightly matched


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Like many tracks across the country this year, Churchill Downs has struggled at times to attract large fields, particularly in high-end allowance races.

Sunday's featured ninth race at Churchill, a $59,000 third-level allowance with an $80,000 claiming option, is one of those attractive exceptions. Ten horses were entered in the race, a 1 1/8-mile contest for older males on turf, and the field is evenly matched.

That is reflected in the morning-line odds that linemaker Mike Battaglia assigned. Five horses are closely grouped at 6-1 or less, with Tajaaweed, a recent second-level allowance winner at Arlington, listed as the 5-2 favorite over 7-2 shot No Inflation.

The virtues of the two favorites are easy to spot. Tajaaweed, a former European, was a Group 3 winner in Britain as a 3-year-old in 1998 and ran eighth that year at 10-1 in the prestigious Group 1 Epsom Derby, and No Inflation won the Grade 3 Kent last year at 3, while also hitting the board in such lucrative stakes events as the Grade 2 Jefferson Cup and Grade 2 Oak Tree Derby.

No Inflation has something Tajaaweed does not -- experience over the Churchill Downs course. Besides his third in the Jefferson Cup last year, he ran third in a similar third-level allowance May 30, finishing 3 3/4 lengths behind Inca King, a horse who is perfect in five races this year.

That May 30 race followed two off-the-board finishes at Tampa this spring that began his 2010 campaign.

"He's not a top, top horse, but that's okay," said his no-nonsense trainer, Tom Proctor. "He's getting a little better as we go along."

The distance of Sunday's race suits No Inflation. Two of his three victories have come at 1 1/8 miles, one on Polytrack at age 2 and the other in the Kent last year.

Proctor is hoping to catch a dry course. "He likes it as firm as he can get it," he said.

Hot, mostly sunny conditions are forecast for the weekend, with a slight chance of an isolated afternoon thunderstorm.

Miguel Mena rides No Inflation, a 4-year-old gelding by Repriced owned and bred by Glen Hill Farm.

Proctor also starts Caberneigh, a 12-1 outsider who is stepping up in class after edging $40,000 claiming competition.

On the basis of class, form, and Beyer Speed Figures, more likely to challenge No Inflation and Tajaaweed are Strike Impact, Crested, and Forest Attack.