06/17/2001 11:00PM

Guided Tour exceeds trainer's modest goal

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Guided Tour was late joining the field for the Grade 2, $831,000 Stephen Foster Handicap, becoming an 11th-hour entry only after trainer Niall O'Callaghan convinced owner Morton Fink that the gelding had a decent chance.

Saturday, Guided Tour certainly wasn't late to the finish line in the Foster. After a terrific inside trip under veteran jockey Larry Melancon, Guided Tour overtook heavily favored Captain Steve near the wire to pull off an upset at 15-1.

Guided Tour ($33.40) was the beaten favorite in his previous start, the May 19 Hawthorne Gold Cup. But in the 1 1/8-mile Foster, after saving ground while tracking the pace set by Duckhorn, Guided Tour wheeled out to wear down a game Captain Steve, who also got a good stalking trip and took command turning for home.

"This horse runs hard every time," said Melancon, who scored the richest victory of his career.

O'Callaghan waited until Thursday, the day of entry, to reveal that Guided Tour would run in the Foster. He said he was hoping his horse could finish as high as third, adding, "but if none of the favorites run their races, maybe anything can happen."

Before a crowd of 13,530 at Churchill Downs, Duckhorn set fractions of 23.58 seconds, 46.92, and 1:10.70 before Captain Steve, the 3-5 favorite under Jerry Bailey, overtook him. As both Bailey and Melancon went to fierce drives, Guided Tour, having angled out at the top of the stretch, prevailed by a half-length in 1:47.74.

Brahms finished third, another 2 3/4 lengths back, followed by Duckhorn, Un-shaded, Da Devil, Jadada, and Graeme Hall. Unshaded, the 3-1 second choice, launched a mild rally on the far turn before flattening out.

Guided Tour, a Kentucky-bred 5-year-old by Hansel, now has won 10 of 27 starts. The $515,220 winner's share raises his total earnings to $1,390,253.

Guided Tour carried 113 pounds, 10 fewer than top-weighted Captain Steve, who was making his first start since winning the $6 million Dubai World Cup on March 24.

Second money was $166,200, which lifted Captain Steve past Alysheba and John Henry into fourth place on the all-time earnings list. He now trails only Cigar, Skip Away, and Silver Charm. Captain Steve, 4, has earned nearly $6.7 million for owner Mike Pegram.

The Foster was worth six points to Guided Tour and four points to Captain Steve in the National Thoroughbred Racing Association's Champions series standings. Both now have 14 points, for a fifth-place tie. The leader, Include, has 22 points.

Saudi Poetry isn't a fluke

Saudi Poetry, an upset winner of the Louisville Breeders' Cup in her last start, wheeled right back Saturday to defeat five of the fillies and mares she had beat in that race by capturing the $333,000 Fleur de Lis Handicap at 6-1.

"Everyone was surprised, but not me," said Victor Espinoza, who rode Saudi Poetry ($14.40) to a 1 1/4-length victory for The Thoroughbred Corp. and trainer Bob Baffert.

Always in a comfortable position when tracking Maltese Superb and Asher to the final turn of the 1 1/8-mile race, Saudi Poetry drew clear in the upper stretch to prove clearly best. She finished in 1:49.27 over a fast track.

Secret Status, the 9-5 favorite, rallied belatedly to finish second, overtaking Asher by a neck. It was another 1 1/4 lengths back to Royal Fair in fourth.

The Grade 3 Fleur de Lis, the richest co-feature on the Stephen Foster undercard, was particularly gratifying for Espinoza, who also rode the 4-year-old Saudi Poetry in the Louisville BC. "I've been waiting all day long for these races, and I was really focused," he said. "The trip really set up good for me. It was what I wanted."

Saudi Poetry earned $206,460, bringing her total to nearly $580,000. She has won 5 of 14 overall, with the restricted Torry Pines at Del Mar last summer being her only stakes win before this meet at Churchill.

For Secret Status, the defeat was her second since she returned from a lengthy layoff to win an April allowance sprint at Keeneland, although the Fleur de Lis was an improvement over her sixth-place finish in the Louisville BC.

Casual Feat stunning winner at 28-1

At some point, either La Vida Loca, the 6-5 favorite, or Bold Answer, the 2-1 second choice, were supposed to roar past Casual Feat, the longshot front-runner in the $167,250 Regret Stakes.

It never happened.

Casual Feat, a Cozzene filly fresh off her maiden victory, held off Amaretta to win the Grade 3 Regret by a length while La Vida Loca struggled home third and Bold Answer fourth in a field of eight 3-year-old fillies. Casual Feat, ridden by Larry Melancon, paid $59.40 after finishing 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.75 over a firm turf.

Casual Feat is owned by her co-breeder, T. S. Hinkle, and trained by veteran Steve Penrod. After losing her first four starts by a total of 81 lengths, she won a maiden race at Churchill on May 23 at 14-1.

Meche coaxes longshot Compendium home

Compendium stunned nine other 3-year-olds by edging away to win the $100,000 Northern Dancer Handicap, first of the four stakes run on the Stephen Foster program.

Compendium, ridden by Donnie Meche, was always prominent in the one-mile race, pulling away from Global Gait before holding off Meetyouathebrig, the 3-2 favorite, by 1 3/4 lengths. Horrible Evening finished third, another four lengths behind.

Compendium, a Florida-bred by Notebook, returned $50 after finishing in 1:34.78. The colt is owned by the Ackerley Brothers Farm.

"This horse seems to do better when he runs where he's stabled," said assistant Scott Blasi, who oversees trainer Steve Asmussen's Churchill string.

* A half-hour after the Northern Dancer, Meche and Blasi got into a heated argument over the way Meche rode Dreams Gallore in the Fleur de Lis. The two men nearly came to blows in the paddock runway before being separated.

* Longshots dominated the pick four wager, which consisted exclusively of Churchill stakes. The payoff was $118,097.10 for a $1 bet. From an all-sources pick four handle of $145,799, only one winning $1 ticket was sold on the 6-4-4-2 combination. Incredibly, it was bought by an ontrack patron who bet just $8 by using 6-4-4-all.

* The engraved 2001 Kentucky Derby trophies were presented between races Saturday to the connections of Monarchos: breeder Jim Squires, owner John Oxley, trainer John T. Ward Jr., and, in absentia, jockey Jorge Chavez.