06/03/2003 11:00PM

Just the right spot


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - After two nice-looking wins at Gulfstream Park this winter, Be Like Mike made an unscheduled side trip to a West Palm Beach veterinary clinic, the victim of a colic attack.

Be Like Mike, a promising 4-year-old by Unbridled's Song, eventually made a full recovery, but then trainer Niall O'Callaghan came upon a minor dilemma: What spot for a return race?

Ultimately, O'Callaghan found a one-mile race at Churchill Downs on May 2, but Be Like Mike set a torrid pace before fading to third. "I could've run him the next day at 6 1/2 furlongs, but that could've been just as bad," said O'Callaghan, citing the presence of Strength and Honor in that race

Now, just over a month later, O'Callaghan is satisfied that Be Like Mike has found both the right distance and company. Be Like Mike will be the likely favorite Friday in the eighth-race feature at Churchill, a $46,100, second-level allowance.

"It was the obvious spot back," said O'Callaghan.

Six opponents are set to face Be Like Mike, with Mister Michael and Full of Luck among the more capable challengers.

First post for the Friday card, which also includes a $43,500 turf allowance (race 9), is 2:45 p.m. Eastern.

Senor Swinger scares 'em off

The presence of Senor Swinger appears to be keeping the field size down for the lone stakes to be run here this weekend, the $200,000 Jefferson Cup on Saturday. The trainers of only a handful of 3-year-olds have said they are willing to oppose Senor Swinger in the 1 1/8-mile turf race. Those prospective opponents include Willard Straight, Stroll, Ontario, Rapid Proof, and Moonshine Hall.

A win in the Jefferson Cup by Senor Swinger would be his second in a Grade 3 turf race at the Churchill spring meet. Before finishing fifth in the Preakness in his most recent start, Senor Swinger won the May 2 Crown Royal American Turf for owners Bob and Beverly Lewis and trainer Bob Baffert.

Scheduled post time for the Jefferson Cup, which will be carded as the ninth of 10 Saturday races, is 5:34. The simulcast of the Belmont Stakes, which can be bet only through Belmont Park's commingled pools, is set for 6:38. Races will be about 32 minutes apart here Saturday.

Proctor weighing Foster

Trainer Tom Proctor said he will look at the weights for the June 14 Stephen Foster Handicap before considering the race for his stable star, Consistency. The 4-year-old Unbridled colt has won four of five career starts.

"You always try to get the easiest spot you can, and obviously that's not going to be that easy," said Proctor.

Two horses in particular - Mineshaft and Aldebaran - are giving the $750,000, Grade 1 Foster a rugged look. Weight assignments for the 1 1/8-mile race are scheduled for release Sunday.

Consistency, owned by Glen Hill Farm, most recently won a May 17 allowance race. His only loss was a runner-up finish in the Skip Away Handicap at Gulfstream in April.

Perfect Drift and Proud Citizen are among the handful of horses likely to challenge Mineshaft and Aldebaran.

* Friday will be the first day as a journeyman for John McKee, who won his first race last May 27 at River Downs. McKee, 21, has enjoyed a sensational run as an apprentice rider, including being named an Eclipse Award finalist in that category last year.

McKee is named on five mounts Friday.

* As the Triple Crown hubbub begins to subside Sunday, Churchill will resume its giveaways of bobblehead dolls modeled after former Triple Crown winners. Seattle Slew bobbleheads will be given away with the first 7,500 paid admissions. Affirmed bobbleheads were given out May 31, and a Secretariat giveaway is scheduled for June 21.