11/07/2003 12:00AM

Golden Marlin class of field

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The richest race on any given program at Churchill Downs normally is carded late in the day, but when the scheduled feature attracted just six fillies and mares, the race became the fourth of 10 so that more attractive betting races could be slotted for the prime spots.

That's understandable from a horseplayer's standpoint, but as far as horsemen are concerned, it doesn't much matter. "We'll get it out of the way and hopefully enjoy the rest of the day," said Doug Glass, co-owner of Golden Marlin, the likely favorite in the fourth, a $64,600 classified allowance.

Golden Marlin, trained by Greg Foley, was overmatched in her latest start, the Grade 3 Raven Run Stakes at Keeneland, but her Sunday return should produce dramatically different results. Having won the Grade 3 Dogwood Stakes at Churchill nearly six months ago, she figures to have a distinct class edge in the 1 1/16-mile race, and with Pat Day named to ride, surely she will take more than her share of action at the windows.

For fans who prefer races without such short-priced favorites, the balance of the card should be to their liking. Large fields are the common denominator in the other races, including the ninth, a $46,300, entry-level allowance that drew 11 2-year-olds.

Master William, trained by Michael Dickinson, takes full advantage of the conditions of the ninth, which allows 2-year-olds that have never won two races to compete. Whereas every other starter is a mere maiden winner, Master William captured the $250,000 Cup and Saucer Stakes on the Woodbine grass course last month after having finishing fourth at Colonial Downs in his lone previous start.

Also entered in the ninth is Outfield Shift, a Lear Fan colt who won at first asking in a Keeneland sprint on Oct. 23.

"I had wanted to run him long on the grass but couldn't find the right spot for him," said trainer Bill Million. "The fact he won sprinting on the dirt, which doesn't figure to be his strength, tells me he's probably going to be a real nice horse."

In other races of note Sunday, Jonathan Sheppard has a pair of contenders in Western Fling and Bonfo in a wide-open $46,300 turf allowance (race 7), and Day will ride Gulch Approval as a major contender for trainer Nick Zito in a $50,000 second-level allowance (race 8).