11/06/2002 1:00AM

Habibti may save season in Distaff


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - More than 10 months into the year, Habibti is still winless as a 3-year-old. The odds of that happening had to be very high, considering Habibti won two Grade 1 races last year.

But a confluence of circumstances have led to a relatively unproductive season. Habibti, owned by The Thoroughbred Corp. and trained by Bob Baffert, has had just four races this year and only one since she finished third behind Farda Amiga and Take Charge Lady in the Kentucky Oaks on May 3. Except for her fifth-place finish in a restricted stakes at Del Mar in September, she has run against the best of her class.

Habibti runs in the Grade 2, $200,000 Churchill Downs Distaff at one mile on Saturday. All the disappointment of her season could be forgotten with an overdue victory.

"After Del Mar, we brought her back here and have basically been waiting for this race," said John Good, 23, Baffert's Churchill-based assistant. "She's been training very enthusiastically. Bob's main goal with her has been to get her back on top of her game and let her tell us when she's ready."

Two other starters for the CD Distaff, Adoration and Bare Necessities, arrived Tuesday by plane from California. Along with Habibti, they will be part of a field that is expected to include Flaxen Flyer, Lotta Rhythm, Red N'Gold, Trip, and Victory Ride.

The CD Distaff is the lone stakes here this weekend.

Travers winner Unshaded retired

Unshaded, a 5-year-old gelded son of Unbridled who won the 2000 Travers Stakes at Saratoga, has been retired after reinjuring the tendon that caused a lengthy layoff midway through his career.

Following a Sunday workout at Churchill Downs by Unshaded, trainer Carl Nafzger discovered that Unshaded had aggravated the same tendon in his left foreleg that forced owner Jim Tafel to give the horse nearly 10 months off following the Travers.

"He's been great," Nafzger said. "He doesn't owe anybody anything."

Unshaded, bred in Kentucky by Shawnna Sorenson, last raced Oct. 23 at Keeneland when he broke a nine-race losing streak by winning an allowance race restricted to horses who had never won on grass.

Unshaded won six of 20 career starts and earned $1,318,492. His greatest win came in the Travers, when he wore down Albert the Great to win by a head under jockey Shane Sellers. He also won the Grade 2 Lexington Stakes and finished third behind Commendable in the Belmont Stakes.

Slowest day of the week

The announced Tuesday crowd of 2,998 at Churchill is a prime example of why track officials said last month that a five-day race week will be implemented here next fall. The Tuesday crowd is believed to be the lowest in modern track history. Ontrack handle, which included imported simulcasts, was only $420,337.

Tuesdays are perennially the weakest day for attendance at Churchill. With five-week meets in 2002 and 2003 - the fall meet always runs through the Saturday following Thanksgiving - acting general manager Jim Gates Jr. successfully petitioned the Kentucky Racing Commission to eliminate Tuesdays from the schedule next year.

Dates appeal

Tim McCall and David Holloway, the Louisville businessmen who last month were denied 2003 dates by the Kentucky Racing Commission for their proposed new track in the southeastern Kentucky town of Williamsburg, will file an appeal of the decision next week in Franklin Circuit Court.

McCall said Wednesday that the 6-1 vote by the commission to deny dates for the proposed $20 million Quarter Horse track was "arbitrary and capricious."