07/03/2002 11:00PM

A fresh Euchre seeks repeat

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ALTOONA, Iowa - Euchre looks to restore his reputation as one of the nation's leading handicap horses when he heads a field of 10 in Saturday's Grade 3, $400,000 Cornhusker Breeders' Cup Handicap at Prairie Meadows.

The card also includes the $125,000 Iowa Distaff for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles.

Euchre, a 6-year-old trained by Bobby Frankel, stalked the pace in last year's Cornhusker and went on to score a 1 3/4-length victory under Garrett Gomez. Euchre went to the sidelines for five months following the Cornhusker but returned in top form to finish second in three straight graded stakes in Southern California leading up to the Santa Anita Handicap on March 2.

Euchre was perceived to be the stronger half of a Frankel-trained entry in the $1 million Big Cap, but it was his stablemate, Milwaukee Brew, who rallied to score a convincing victory, while Euchre faded badly to finish 13th in the 14-horse field.

Although Euchre has not raced since the Big Cap, Frankel has had him in steady training at Hollywood Park for a defense of his Cornhusker title. Overall, Euchre sports a record of 6-4-3 from 20 starts good for more than $801,000 in earnings for owner Stronach Stables Inc. Jorge Chavez takes over for Gomez, who will be at Monmouth Park to ride Denon for Frankel on Saturday.

The 1 1/8-mile Cornhusker field is deep with a handful of horses capable of upsetting Euchre.

Best of the Rest is co-highweighted with Euchre at 118 pounds and enters off three straight stakes scores in Florida for trainer Ed Plesa Jr. In his most recent start, Best of the Rest scored a game half-length win in the Grade 3 Memorial Day Handicap at Calder. Jeremy Beasley has the call on Best of the Rest, a 7-year-old who has won 12 of his 22 career starts.

Mr. John is a possible upsetter for trainer Elliott Walden. After finishing second in two graded stakes events in spring 2001, Mr. John was entered in the Preakness and faded badly to finish last of 11 after flashing early speed. Mr. John went to the sidelines following the Preakness and didn't race again until this April when he scored an allowance victory sprinting at Keeneland. Following another allowance victory at Churchill, Mr. John was shipped to Texas for the Lone Star Park Handicap where despite a troubled trip he finished fourth, beaten 4 1/4 lengths by Congaree.

Walden adds blinkers to Mr. John's equipment for the Cornhusker while giving Mark Guidry a return call at 113 pounds.

Unshaded, winner of the 2000 Travers; McMahon, who captured the Precisionist Handicap here in his last start; and stakes winner Fajardo add quality to the field.

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