06/17/2002 12:00AM

Firecracker next for Congaree


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Congaree, the beaten favorite in the Grade 1 Stephen Foster here Saturday, will remain at Churchill Downs to make his turf debut July 4 in the $250,000 Firecracker Handicap.

Trainer Bob Baffert originally had planned to send on a Sunday flight that transported War Emblem and several other horses to California. But Baffert said the Firecracker made the most sense as a possible next start for Congaree, considering he is by Arazi and has a grass pedigree.

Baffert said he mostly blamed himself for Congaree's performance in the Foster, in which the colt faded to sixth.

"I went real easy on him" after Congaree won the May 11 Lone Star Park Handicap off a 10-month layoff, said Baffert. "He ran hard and shipped, and I babied him a little bit too much."

In other fall-out from the Foster:

* Dollar Bill, the runner-up, "ran great," said trainer Dallas Stewart. "He's a true 1 1/4-mile horse. We should have a great last half of the year with him."

* Third-place finisher Tenpins will get a breather, which had been planned for him "win or lose," said trainer Don Winfree.

* Connected, who finished seventh, was scheduled to undergo throat surgery Monday in Lexington after having been diagnosed with an entrapped epiglottis following the race, said trainer David Carroll.

Two months off for Perfect Drift

Perfect Drift, who finished 10th in the Belmont Stakes, has started a 60-day respite after being diagnosed last week with a "little hot spot in his right shin," said trainer Murray Johnson.

"There's no fracture, but a bone scan said there's a little activity on one small spot, so we're giving him some time," said Johnson, adding that no decision has been made on whether to keep the gelding at the Trackside training facility in Louisville or turn him out at breeder-owner Dr. William Reed's farm in Kansas City, Mo. "He'll walk 30 days, then jog 30 days."

Perfect Drift finished third in the Kentucky Derby, and was regarded as one of the main challengers in the June 8 Belmont Stakes.

Missed opportunity

If not for a little scheduling snafu, jockey Jerry Bailey might have swept all four of the Foster day stakes. Bailey won stakes with Street Cry, Danthebluegrassman and Distant Valley, but finished third in the Fleur de Lis aboard favored Dancethruthedawn.

Bailey had ridden the Fleur de Lis winner, Spain, in her previous start, the May 3 Louisville Breeders' Cup Handicap. But by the time Bailey and his agent, Ron Anderson, had committed to riding at Churchill Saturday, D. Wayne Lukas already had agreed to have Jorge Chavez ride Spain in the Fleur de Lis.

Prather sidelined again

Kris Prather is expected to be out for about six weeks with a fractured pelvis, said Ron Mullis, agent for the hard-luck apprentice rider.

Prather suffered the injury after unsaddling from her mount, Count Rutledge, in the fifth race Saturday. The horse kicked her with great force on her left side.

"She's already out of the hospital, up and moving around," said Mullis.

This is at least the third time during her apprenticeship that Prather, 23, has been sidelined by injury.

Tracks may lose tax benefit

The current budget impasse in Kentucky state government could cost Churchill and other Kentucky tracks a tax break if the issue is not soon resolved, according to a Monday report in The Louisville Courier-Journal.

Churchill could lose an annual tax concession worth about $1 million if, as expected, the legislature does not reconvene by July 1 to pass a two-year budget. Tax breaks of lesser amounts to other tracks, including about $372,000 to Keeneland, also are in jeopardy because of the stalemate between the legislature and Gov. Paul Patton.

- A well-matched field of older turf horses will clash at one mile in the Wednesday feature, a $56,400 allowance. The race is the eighth of 10 on a program that begins at 3:10 p.m. There is no pick six carryover.