06/30/2002 11:00PM

It's Nasty Storm season

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Perhaps Nasty Storm is like some of the basketball teams that one of her co-owners used to coach: much more productive during the second half of the season.

Hopefully for Nasty Storm, a 4-year-old filly owned in partnership by Denny Crum and others, the second half again will be better than the first. That is certainly the way things worked out last year for Nasty Storm: She reeled off consecutive victories in the Weekend Delight, Raven Run, and Churchill Downs Distaff, accounting for the majority of a 2001 bankroll of nearly $385,000.

Crum, whose best teams during his 30-year, Hall of Fame tenure at the University of Louisville were known for peaking at season's end, is one of several men who own a part of Nasty Storm, a Gulch filly trained by Dallas Stewart. The first half of 2002 has amounted to an equine equivalent of a tough non-conference schedule for Nasty Storm, as she has finished out of the money in her only two starts.

Granted, both of those races came against far superior company than what Nasty Storm will face Wednesday in the $57,000 feature at Churchill Downs. In her first start of the year, Nasty Storm was beaten by Grade 1 winner Victory Ride at Keeneland. In her only subsequent start, she finished sixth in the Grade 1 Humana Distaff on the Kentucky Derby undercard.

With just five allowance-caliber fillies to beat Wednesday, and with Pat Day retaining the mount, Nasty Storm should be able to get off to a smooth start for the second half of 2002. Stewart has had her out for a series of sharp works since that last race, and considering how well Nasty Storm fits the "money" conditions that govern the ninth of 10 races, there is little question that she will be a solid favorite to notch her first triumph of the year.

Senorita Ziggy and Hattiesburg appear to be the toughest challengers in the six-furlong race.

The secondary feature, a $56,400 turf allowance, directly precedes the Nasty Storm race.

Wednesday marks the final program of the year that carries a twilight first post of 3:10 p.m. Eastern. Post time for the remaining four days of the meet is 1:10 p.m., even though Friday is not a holiday. Track officials wanted to maintain consistency for the final stretch of racing.

Kentucky racing moves to Ellis Park on July 10.