10/31/2007 11:00PM

Late-running High Heels gets better set-up

EmailLOUISVILLE, Ky. - Trainers occasionally complain about jockeys fouling up their instructions, but seldom do you hear a trainer blame himself for giving faulty instructions. And yet Gary Hartlage is accepting the blame for a mediocre effort from his stable star, High Heels, in her last race, the Grade 1 Spinster Stakes at Keeneland.

Hartlage said he told jockey Joe Johnson to "take her back at all costs," and even after High Heels broke sharply and a slow pace unfolded, Johnson followed orders. "They went slow up front, and we never really had a chance to do much after that," said Hartlage. High Heels wound up ninth.

When High Heels makes her next start Saturday in the Grade 2, $200,000 Chilukki Stakes at her home track, Churchill Downs, Johnson and Hartlage are looking for a dramatically different scenario. Not that they aren't looking for High Heels to rally from behind - they are - but there is a crush of speed in the one-mile Chilukki, and High Heels could be rolling strong late while looking to knock out her second Grade 2 victory of the year. She won the Fantasy Stakes in April.

"She has trained absolutely super lately," said Hartlage, "probably better than she trained up to the Kentucky Oaks," where she ran third.

High Heels will start from post 3 in a field of nine fillies and mares in the Chilukki, which goes as the 10th of 11 races. A fast pace seems assured, with Lady Belsara, Change Up, Pleasant Hill, and Trendy Lady all having showed plenty of speed in previous starts. So, High Heels, along with several others who figure to lag back early, should have every opportunity to come running.

Rolling Sea, seventh in the Spinster, is one of those who could threaten late. From 23 starts, the Illinois-bred filly has 9 wins and 16 in-the-money finishes. And with the kind of karma that trainer Steve Asmussen and jockey Robby Albarado are currently enjoying - they teamed to win the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic last Saturday with Curlin - it would be no surprise if they did a little piling on.

The others in the Chilukki field are My Chickadee, Humorous Gal, and Windy.

The Chilukki, named for the 1999 champion 2-year-old filly, formerly was known as the Churchill Downs Distaff and frequently serves as a prep for the top filly-mare race of the fall meet, the Falls City Handicap, set for Nov. 22.