04/30/2002 11:00PM

Louisville BC brings out sluggers

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The field for Friday's Grade 2 Louisville Breeders' Cup Handicap is so deep that trainer Shug McGaughey has elected to scratch Trip from the race and has entered her in Saturday's Grade 1, $200,000 Humana Distaff instead.

"It came up a little tough," McGaughey said of the $300,000 Louisville, in a gross understatement.

The field for the 1 1/16-mile Louisville includes Grade 1 winners Forest Secrets and Spain as well as multiple graded stakes winners De Bertie and Mystic Lady.

Should Spain win the race, she could eclipse Serena's Song - recently elected to the Hall of Fame - as North America's all-time leading female Thoroughbred money earner. Spain, however, will not be favored.

That role will probably go to Forest Secrets, a 4-year-old daughter of Forest Wildcat who won the Grade 1 Acorn last spring at Belmont and was victorious in a dynamite running of the Falls City Handicap last fall over this track.

Forest Secrets has made two starts this year, finishing second to loose-on-the-lead winner Miss Linda in the Sabin Handicap before coming back to win the Rampart Handicap on March 2.

In the Rampart, Forest Secrets appeared to rate kindly before rolling to a three-length victory over Summer Colony, who had won six consecutive races entering that race.

Trainer John Ward freshened Forest Secrets after the Rampart, and Ward has a solid winning percentage off such layoffs. Pat Day rides Forest Secrets, the 119-pound highweight, from the rail.

No trainer has a deeper bench of handicap fillies and mares than trainer Mark Hennig, who will send out Mystic Lady in the Louisville. A 4-year-old daughter of Kentucky Derby winner Thunder Gulch, Mystic Lady has won four consecutive starts, including the Banshee Breeze Handicap at Gulfstream in her seasonal debut on April 5.

That race was plan B for Hennig, who had hoped to run Mystic Lady in the Apple Blossom. Hennig said Mystic Lady was not ready for that race, but believes the Banshee Breeze has her ready for this.

The only negative regarding Mystic Lady is that she finished seventh in the Kentucky Oaks over this track a year ago.

"Our only concern is last year she didn't seem to handle the track great," Hennig said, reflecting the opinion of jockey Eibar Coa that day. "But, she was coming off her lifetime best race in the Fantasy at the time."

Having drawn outside speed horses Forest Secrets, Spain, and Maltese Superb, Mystic Lady is likely to take up a stalking position breaking from post 6.

Although De Bertie may be a cut below the likes of Forest Secrets, Spain, and Mystic Lady, she could hit the board provided the pace is swift. At 113 pounds, she gets six pounds from Forest Secrets.

"This track is a little more fair than Keeneland and it provided her a better opportunity to make up the ground," Flint said. "I couldn't ask her to be doing any better. If we get a hot pace she'll look good coming from behind."

Zeda and Red n'Gold complete the field.