06/23/2003 11:00PM

A key race if there's a big jackpot


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Unusual as it may seem, the importance of Thursday's feature race might well hinge on what occurred the previous afternoon at Churchill Downs.

That's because the pick six pool was likely to surge past the $1 million mark on Wednesday, meaning that if the bet happened to carry over for another day, the Thursday feature would be one of the key races in what would be an all-time record pick six pool at Churchill.

A $62,000 allowance carded as the eighth of 10 races lured three fillies who already have posted impressive wins at this meet, led by Beat Your Feet, a Frank Brothers-trained filly who has won both starts here this spring. Shane Sellers retains the mount on Beat Your Feet for his longtime client and friend.

The other two in-form fillies in the feature are Vicki Vallencourt and Surf N Sand.

Trainer Eddie Kenneally said after Vicki Vallencourt won June 8 that he was tempted to run her in a stakes, but would prefer to settle for a four-other-than allowance race, which he obviously has found for her Thursday.

Surf N Sand, who was odds-on in winning for the fourth straight time in her Churchill debut May 22, could be the one to catch. Cornelio Velasquez again has the mount for trainer Bob Baffert.

To the Queen, Dove Creek, and Lead Story round out the field of six in the feature.

The Thursday card begins with small fields, but by the time the pick six starts with race 5, the fields start building. Excluding the featured eighth, the field sizes (not counting also-eligibles) from the fifth to 10th races are eight, eight, 10, 10, and 12.

Maybe the toughest of those pick six races are the seventh, a one-mile turf race at the high end of the claiming scale for 3-year-olds, and the 10th, a bottom-rung maiden-claiming race for fillies and mares.

* With Ipi Tombe confirmed as the 123-pound highweight for the Grade 3, $150,000 Locust Grove Handicap here Saturday, the number of fillies and mares willing to challenge her figures to be small. Only Quick Tip, San Dare, and Kiss the Devil are probable for the 1 1/8-mile turf race, although another two or three could start, according to the Churchill racing office.