05/04/2007 12:00AM

Fiery Pursuit holds off Asi Siempre

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Trainer D. Wayne Lukas's strategy for Fiery Pursuit was obvious the instant the starting gate opened for Friday's $300,000 Louisville Breeders' Cup Handicap at Churchill Downs: Get to the lead and then hold on for dear life at the end.

The plan worked to perfection. Ridden by Calvin Borel, Fiery Pursuit was hustled to the lead after the break, led throughout, then held on gamely to narrowly withstand a belated rally from Asi Siempre and win by a head. The Grade 2 race for fillies and mares was decided over a sloppy track.

"I told Calvin we were probably overmatched in this race, so I just said send her to the lead and try to keep her there as long as he can," said Lukas, who trains Fiery Pursuit for her owner-breeder, Overbrook Farm.

Fiery Pursuit set fractions of 23.77 seconds, 47.84, and 1:12.07 for the opening six furlongs of the Louisville Breeders' Cup, with Indian Vale in hot pursuit from the outset. Fiery Pursuit, a 4-year-old daughter of Carson City, repulsed a bid from the favorite through early stretch, then dug in courageously to win a head bob from Asi Siempre. The runner-up raced six lengths off the early pace while saving ground, eased out for the stretch run, and finished willingly only to narrowly miss on the wire. Baghdaria rallied to finish third, three-quarters of a length behind Asi Siempre.

Indian Vale, the 6-5 favorite, faltered gradually through the final furlong and finished fourth in a field reduced to six starters by the scratch of Sugar Shake. Indian Vale was the fourth straight losing favorite on the card for trainer Todd Pletcher.

"She was going good while I had a hold of her, but when I set her down she got to swimming on top of the slop," said Indian Vale's rider, John Velazquez. "She definitely didn't handle the track at all."

Fiery Pursuit completed 1 1/16 miles in 1:37.18 and paid $25.60 as the longest price in the field.

"That was a quantum leap for this filly today," said Lukas. "And that was a hell of an effort by our rider. He just picked her up and carried her the last 100 yards."