06/05/2005 11:00PM

Foster loaded, even without Funny Cide

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Saint Liam is part of a strong list of probables for the Stephen Foster Handicap on June 18.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Although the chances of getting Funny Cide have apparently vanished, the prospective field for the $750,000 Stephen Foster Handicap on June 18 is still shaping up to justify its Grade 1 ranking.

The list of probable starters for the Stephen Foster, a 1 1/8-mile race, is headed by Saint Liam, Badge of Silver, Perfect Drift, and Second of June. Other candidates include Congrats, M B Sea, Supah Blitz, and either of the Todd Pletcher duo of Limehouse and Pollard's Vision.

Churchill racing secretary Doug Bredar said the Foster figures to be "an excellent race."

"Saint Liam is one of the best handicap horses in the country, and the supporting cast looks like it will be a deep one," he said. "We're very excited about the way the race is shaping up."

Bredar said last weekend he believed Churchill had "a very good chance" to get Funny Cide for the Foster, but trainer Barclay Tagg said Monday he plans to run Funny Cide on Saturday in the Brooklyn Handicap at Belmont Park. Although Funny Cide is not regarded on the same level as handicap stars like Ghostzapper, Roses in May, or Rock Hard Ten, the return of a Kentucky Derby winner to Churchill is always a highly popular occurrence. Funny Cide won the 2003 Derby.

Don't Get Mad works for Northern Dancer

Don't Get Mad, the heavy favorite for the $200,000 Northern Dancer on the Foster undercard, worked five furlongs Sunday in 1:02.60 over a fast track. Don't Get Mad, who will be making his first start since finishing fourth in the May 7 Kentucky Derby, will be part of a small field of 3-year-olds in the 1 1/16-mile Northern Dancer. The Northern Dancer is one of six stakes set for Foster Day. Nominations for all of those races were to be released by Wednesday.

Summerly's Dogwood status pending

Before Foster weekend comes the $150,000 Dogwood Breeders' Cup Stakes, for which the central question will be whether Kentucky Oaks winner Summerly will be permitted to run. She is one of the 32 horses in the Steve Asmussen barn who has tested negative for the equine herpes virus, but because four horses in the same barn tested positive last week, the barn remains under quarantine until further notice.

If Summerly does not run, the favorites in the 1 1/16-mile Dogwood could be Atlas Valley and Runway Model. The Grade 3 Dogwood will share the spotlight here Saturday with the Belmont Stakes simulcast.

Lightning-fast fractions on the dirt

The main track was fast Sunday, particularly in the sixth race, a highly competitive second-level allowance sprint. Tricky Devil led through opening fractions of 20.94 and 43.90 seconds before finishing second behind Exciting Metro, who finished six furlongs in 1:08.87.

Racing rarity: Woodard loses by four

Joe Woodard finally ran a horse at Churchill that didn't win, or at least wasn't beaten a nose. Cowboy Hardware finished third when beaten nearly four lengths in the sixth race Sunday, marking the first time since May 13 that a Woodard horse was beaten by that many lengths here.

From his 12 previous Churchill starters, Woodard had won 11, including a track-record 10 in a row. His only loser during that span, Peace and Joy in the sixth race Thursday, was beaten about three inches.