09/18/2003 12:00AM

It's Private Horde's big day

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Billy Tucker and Joe Cain want to get through Saturday before any major decisions are made. Tucker and Cain will leave their hometown of Russell Springs, Ky., early Saturday to make a three-hour drive to Turfway Park in Florence, Ky., where their horse Private Horde will attempt to earn a rightful spot in the Breeders' Cup Sprint.

What transpires in the $75,000 Marfa Stakes will determine exactly how Tucker, who bred and owns Private Horde, will proceed. Because Private Horde would have to be supplemented for $90,000 to run in the BC Sprint Oct. 25 at Santa Anita, Tucker is looking to sell partial interest in the colt to offset his expenses.

"Billy is waiting until after the Marfa to make that decision," said Cain, who trains Private Horde on his private farm in Russell Springs, located deep in the southern part of the state. "Obviously, we're hoping to get something done so we can go to the Breeders' Cup. The horse is doing absolutely great. We're looking forward to going up there Saturday and showing we've earned a trip out West."

Six weeks ago, Private Horde, a 4-year-old by Brunswick, stood the racing world on its head by defeating Shake You Down and three other top sprinters as the longest shot in the Grade 2 Vanderbilt Handicap at Saratoga. Since then, Tucker, who lives near Cain, has been entertaining offers for a piece of Private Horde.

So it stands to reason that the 6 1/2-furlong Marfa could mark a major turning point for Private Horde, whose seven starts this year have resulted in a remarkable five wins and two seconds.

"It's been a great year for us," said Cain.

Jason Lumpkins has ridden Private Horde in every start this year, but Terry Thompson will replace him Saturday because Lumpkins, who recently returned to ride regularly in northern California, is serving a suspension for a riding infraction.

"It's a one-shot deal for Terry," said Cain. "If we make the Breeders' Cup, Lumpkins will get the mount back."

The top challengers to Private Horde in the Marfa probably are Deer Lake, Paging, and Shah Jehan. A field of nine is scheduled to start, with Private Horde assigned post 4.

The Marfa is one of 10 races scheduled for Saturday at Turfway. Six races from Kentucky Downs also are included in a melded 16-race program. The Marfa is the 13th race.