07/21/2004 11:00PM

Just a prep for Fire Slam

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Pat Day and David Carroll will be at Ellis Park on Saturday hoping to win the $100,000 Don Bernhardt Stakes with favored Fire Slam.

But if they don't win, well, there will be another day.

"We're using this race as a prep for the King's Bishop at Saratoga," said Carroll. "That's our goal this summer."

A 6 1/2-furlong race, the Don Bernhardt marks the first time that Fire Slam, a 3-year-old coming off back-to-back wins in the Matt Winn and Riva Ridge, will race against older horses. So with the Bernhardt being a means to something bigger, and with his opposition being perhaps more accomplished, Fire Slam is no cinch to win.

"The horse is doing very well, but this might be tough for him," said Carroll, who will ship Fire Slam from his Churchill Downs base early on race day. "Obviously it's not a

do-or-die race. Let's just say we're not going to kill him to see that he wins Saturday. Pat is aware of what we're trying to get done, and so is Mr. Fulton. Getting to Saratoga in good order for the King's Bishop is where we're at."

The $250,000 King's Bishop is a Grade 1 race restricted to 3-year-olds. A seven-furlong race, it is set for the Travers undercard on Aug. 28.

Day had the choice of riding Senor Swinger for Bob Baffert in the Arlington Handicap on Saturday but elected instead to stay with Fire Slam, who earned a 109 Beyer Speed Figure in winning the Riva Ridge on the June 5 Belmont Stakes undercard.

Foremost among the five horses entered to face Fire Slam in the Bernhardt is Cat Genius, who recorded back-to-back 111 Beyers when finishing second in both the June 5 True North at Belmont and the July 4 Iowa Sprint Handicap at Prairie Meadows. Cat Genius, who will be making his first start for trainer Ken McPeek, has extraordinary early speed "and could prove very tough to catch," said Carroll.

Cat Genius will be ridden by Craig Perret from post 2, just outside of Fire Slam.

From the rail out, the field for the Bernhardt is Fire Slam, Cat Genius, Big Talkin Man, Scrimshaw, Founding Chairman, and Unbridled America.

The Don Bernhardt, named for the late sports editor of the Evansville Courier and Press, is carded as the fourth of 10 Saturday races at Ellis in Henderson, Ky. First post is 12:40 p.m. Central.