06/10/2004 12:00AM

Frankel sure his speed rules


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel is looking at the Stephen Foster Handicap in a very straightforward manner. As the trainer of Peace Rules, Frankel believes that any discussion about an excessive amount of speed in the Foster is probably overblown.

"I think my horse is faster than they are," Frankel said Thursday from New York.

Whether Peace Rules and jockey Jerry Bailey will lead throughout the 1 1/8 miles of the Foster - or even attempt to - will remain a matter left open for debate until the gates are sprung, but in any case, Frankel seems supremely confident in his colt's ability.

"He looks like the speed of the race to me," said Frankel, who will be at Churchill Downs following a Saturday morning flight from New York. "He's been breezing a little quicker than I'd like here at Belmont, but he's training very well. Fast horse."

It will have been 10 weeks since Peace Rules last raced, but that schedule was by design and not anything else, said Frankel. "I wanted to win this race," he said. "I know from the [Kentucky] Derby last year," when Peace Rules finished third in his only start at Churchill, "that he likes the track. My only concern would be an off track, but it doesn't look like that'll happen."

At least two Foster rivals, Midway Road and Southern Image, come equipped with a high turn of speed, but Frankel remains unmoved. Asked whether he believes strategy and jockey tactics will be major factors in the race outcome, he flatly stated: "Not really. I just think my horse is faster than they are."

McPeek not counting out longshot

Besides the foursome - counting in Perfect Drift - of favorites in the Foster, the race also drew two outsiders in Best Minister and Colonial Colony. Neither would seem to rate much chance, but as Ken McPeek, trainer of Best Minister, said, "We've won a race or two with a longshot before."

Easily the most notable upset in McPeek's 19-year career came two years ago this week, when he saddled Sarava to win the Belmont Stakes at a record 70-1. Best Minister figures to be a mere 15-1 or 20-1 on Saturday, and McPeek believes stranger things have happened than a horse upsetting a Grade 1 race in that odds range.

"There might be a whole lot of speed in the race, so who knows?" said McPeek. "Maybe it'll set up for a horse coming from the back, and mine has shown he can come from off of it."

Best Minister has run exceptionally well on several occasions in his 10-race career, including an easy allowance win in his last start here May 20.

Smarty Jones connections back

Churchill fans reveled in the Alumni Day celebration that the track held three straight years beginning in 1998, but expenses and logistics became so overwhelming that track officials felt compelled to eliminate the alumni concept from its Foster Day program following the 2000 running.

Still, some vestiges remain as part of Foster Day, most notably a homecoming reception for the winning Derby team of six weeks beforehand. Last year, to great fanfare, several members of the Sackatoga Stable syndicate, which owns the 2003 Derby winner, Funny Cide, rode their fabled yellow school bus around the racetrack before deboarding to accept their engraved Derby trophies, and this year, the presence of the Smarty Jones team will be a major feature of the Foster Day festivities.

Owners Roy and Patricia Chapman and trainer John Servis are scheduled to be here for an autograph session that will be held on the grandstand ground level from noon to 1:30 p.m. Eastern. Customers are asked to bring only one item to be autographed. The first 2,500 people in line will receive a souvenir Smarty Jones photograph.

After the fifth race, the Chapmans and Servis will be presented with their engraved Derby trophies. Later that evening, the Smarty Jones connections are scheduled to attend the third annual Out to Pasture Party, a benefit dinner for the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation.

Yell giving it another go-round

Yell's career has been marked by strong but troubled losses. She ran third in the 2003 Kentucky Oaks after being pinballed in the early stages of the race. She finished fourth last summer against older mares in the Grade 1 Ballerina, beaten 2 1/4 lengths, after being blocked in traffic. And most recently, she ran second to Lead Story in the April 30 Louisville Breeders' Cup Handicap after losing the jump on that rival coming off the turn.

Saturday Yell will seek to erase her recent troubles with a victory in the $400,000 Fleur de Lis Handicap. Pat Day, her rider over her last five starts, has not lost faith. "When it goes her way, she can run a hole in the wind," Day said.

She did just that last fall at Keeneland, running down Ebony Breeze and Tina Bull in the Raven Run Stakes. Racing seven furlongs in 1:21.75, she earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 102.

In three starts since, she has gone winless. "If things go right for her, she can get one of these," Day said.

On paper, Yell should get a good trip. She is favorably drawn in post 2, seemingly in position to track the lead group, including Breeders' Cup Distaff winner Adoration.

* After Foster weekend, just three weeks remain at the Churchill spring meet, with the most important cluster of remaining stakes scheduled for closing weekend. Those races are the Grade 2 Firecracker Breeders' Cup on July 3, the Grade 3 Debutante on July 4, and the Grade 3 Bashford Manor on

July 5. Filling the gap between now and then are the June 19 Aristides BC Handicap and June 26 Locust Grove Handicap.

- additional reporting by Byron King