11/02/2005 12:00AM

Flanders Fields heads tough Iroquois


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Surely nothing can happen over the next couple of months that would keep Stevie Wonderboy from being named the 2-year-old champion of 2005. Nonetheless, a handful of remaining stakes across North America could alter the outlook for the Kentucky Derby next spring, most notably the Remsen Stakes, the Ken-tucky Jockey Club Stakes, and the Hollywood Futurity.

The prep for the Nov. 26 Kentucky Jockey Club will be run Saturday at Churchill Downs, and if the $100,000 Iroquois Stakes is a mere preliminary, the KJC should be exceptionally good. The one-mile Iroquois is expected to get a big field, with several 2-year-olds who already have shown considerable promise, including Laity, Charley Tango, Flanders Fields, High Cotton, and Testimony.

Of those, it is Flanders Fields who may already have garnered the most attention - and not just because the colt looked terrific in winning a one-mile maiden race at Belmont by 6 1/2 lengths on Sept. 10. No, it's because Flanders Fields is out of Flanders, who was the 2-year-old filly champion of 1994 in a career cut short by an injury suffered in her memorable victory in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies at Churchill.

Flanders Fields, by A.P. Indy, was bred and is owned by Overbrook Farm, the Kentucky powerhouse that also raced Flanders. Dallas Stewart wanted to run the colt in the Oct. 8 Champagne Stakes at Belmont, then the BC Juvenile, but all those plans were scrapped after Flanders Fields got sick about five days before the Champagne.

"He came down with a little fever, and we had to miss about a week with him," said Stewart. "Obviously that knocked us back with what we originally wanted to get done with him."

Duly regrouped, Flanders Fields has had two workouts since shipping from Belmont to Churchill, and Stewart is optimistic the colt will run well Saturday.

"He acts like he's ready," he said, calling the colt's most recent workout, six furlongs here last Friday in 1:14.40, "real nice."

"One of the things he's got going for him is he's already won at the distance," Stewart said.

Before going out on his own in 1997, Stewart worked with many standout horses, including Flanders, during his 11-year tenure under D. Wayne Lukas. Stewart said Flanders Fields is "very intelligent, like his mother. He's a bigger-sized horse than she was, and obviously he's got some maturing to do. But he's a nice horse, very nice."

All-juvenile Saturday card

The Iroquois and its sister race, the Pocahontas Stakes, will be part of an 11-race Saturday card that Churchill has billed as "Stars of Tomorrow." Every race will be for 2-year-olds, with the condition book listing four maiden-special races, four allowance races, one $50,000 claiming race, and the two stakes.

The Pocahontas is run under identical conditions as the Iroquois, except that it's for fillies. Churchill's racing secretary, Doug Bredar, said he is expecting a field of 10 or 11, including Coolwind, Easy Slam, Mykindasaint, Performing Diva, Swept Gold, and Trippi Street.

The Sunday features here are the $150,000 Chilukki, a Grade 2 race formerly known as the Churchill Distaff, and the $70,800 Cherokee Run. The one-mile Chilukki could get as many as 10 fillies and mares, said Bredar.

Woods returning to saddle

Jockey Charlie Woods Jr. will end a lengthy retirement Friday when he rides Chicken Soup Kid in the eighth race. Woods, who has ridden 2,860 winners in a career that began in 1974, last rode in March 2003.

Woods, 55, retired in October 2003 after being plagued by a series of injuries, including a herniated disk in his neck.

"I really feel great now," he said.

Woods, the fifth-leading rider in Churchill history with 748 career wins, has been getting on horses for about two weeks. He worked as a jockey agent during much of his time away from riding but said he "missed riding all along. I don't know how much business I'll get, but I'm excited about coming back."

Benefit poker tournament Monday

Churchill and the two local horsemen's organizations will host a Texas hold 'em tournament Monday at 6 p.m. in the Paddock Pavilion. All proceeds will benefit Louisiana horsemen victimized by the recent hurricanes, as well as the family of Juan Pena, a Trackside backstretch worker who lost three small children in a recent fire.

The buy-in is $125, with the tournament limited to 240 players. More information is available at (502) 363-1077.

* The only six-day race week of the fall meet will be next week, when racing will be conducted Tuesday, which is Election Day in some states.

* The Rev. Herman Naber, who in recent years conducted church services every Sunday during live Churchill meets, died Monday at age 72.