11/23/2004 12:00AM

Indy Groove catches break in Falls City

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - There might be many reasons to give thanks Thursday at Churchill Downs, but for the folks with horses in the Falls City Handicap, there will be none bigger than what was announced Tuesday at Barn 44.

That's where D. Wayne Lukas said Azeri will remain in her stall when the $300,000 Falls City is run, a development that instantly gave the other seven fillies and mares vastly improved chances in the Grade 2 race.

"I'd rather not run against her, to be honest," said trainer Tom Proctor, who will send out Indy Groove as one of the race favorites. "With Wayne coming out, that has to make us one of the top picks."

Like Azeri, made her last start on Breeders' Cup Day at Lone Star Park, albeit amid much less fanfare. While Azeri drew considerable attention by trying males in the Classic, Indy Groove barely drew a mention when she finished sixth, beaten 8 1/2 lengths, at 48-1 in the Distaff.

Everything considered, the Distaff was not a bad race for Indy Groove, and on the heels of a dominating victory in her previous start at Mountaineer Park, the Thanksgiving crowd is sure to make her one of its choices. Indy Groove will start from post 1 with jockey Brice Blanc aboard.

"She's shown she belongs with these other mares," said Proctor.

Probably the filly to beat is , especially if she runs as well as she has in her last two starts. Trained by Dale Romans, Halory Leigh suddenly came to life when she won an Oct. 10 allowance at Keeneland, then confirmed that dramatic improvement with a five-length thumping of Lady Tak and other top performers in the Nov. 7 Churchill Distaff.

"We had her doing different things until something worked," said Romans.

Other logical contenders in the Falls City are Mayo on the Side, winner of the Grade 1 Humana Distaff over Azeri in May, and Susan's Angel, a Lukas filly who won the Turfway Breeders' Cup in September.

The rest of the field is Miss Fortunate, Flower Forest, and Red Cell.

The Falls City is carded as the 10th of 11 Thursday races and is directly preceded by an allowance race in which Commentator, an unbeaten New York-bred 3-year-old, will be heavily favored under Pat Day. First post is 11:30 a.m.