06/16/2005 12:00AM

Fleur de Lis nearly a Louisville rerun


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Six weeks have done little to change the racing scene in the local filly and mare division. Five of the eight entrants in Saturday's Grade 2, $300,000 Fleur de Lis Handicap at Churchill Downs raced in the Grade 2 Louisville Breeders' Cup on the Kentucky Oaks undercard, including its first- through third-place finishers - Shadow Cast, Island Sand, and Storm's Darling.

The conditions of the Fleur de Lis are slightly different. The race, while not devoid of pace, lacks the abundance of front-runners that the Louisville Breeders' Cup attracted, and the race is a sixteenth of a mile longer at 1 1/8 miles on the main track.

The differing circumstances are not expected to affect , who rallied from 11 lengths off the pace to win the Louisville Breeders' Cup over Island Sand. Already a winner at the distance, Shadow Cast has adapted to win races under a variety of circumstances.

A daughter of Smart Strike owned by Will Farish, she has won 4 of her last 5 starts, with the one loss being a third-place finish in the Grade 1 Apple Blossom on April 9.

"She's really changed and matured from her 3-year-old to 4-year-old year," said Shadow Cast's trainer, Neil Howard. "Some do it at different stages of their life."

Robby Albarado, the regular jockey for the Howard stable, rides.

Of the eight entrants in the Fleur de Lis, is the lone Grade 1 winner, a fact that bodes well for her chances. Seven of the last nine winners of this race had won a Grade 1 race at some point before winning the Fleur de Lis.

Island Sand's Grade 1 victory came more than a year ago in the one-mile Acorn at Belmont Park. She has gone winless in seven starts since, although her form has improved of late.

She ran 1 1/4 lengths behind Shadow Cast while finishing fourth in the Apple Blossom, and cut that margin to a length in the Louisville Breeders' Cup. Mike Smith, who rode her for the first time in the Louisville BC, has been given a return mount.

Of the fillies and mares who did not race in the Louisville Breeders' Cup, appears to have the best chance. She ran second in the Grade 3 Sixty Sails Handicap at Hawthorne in her last race April 23. She has been training forwardly in recent weeks at Belmont Park. Edgar Prado has the mount for trainer John Kimmel.

The Fleur de Lis is the second leg of the NTRA National Pick 4 and will be shown live on ESPN.