10/17/2004 11:00PM

Main event a $56,000 scramble


LEXINGTON, Ky. - Halfway home, but better than half good. Even with its handful of cheap races, the Wednesday program that marks the halfway point of the 17-day Keeneland fall meet still should meet the approval of racing fans most everywhere.

Four allowance races worth a total of $214,000 - an impressive figure by any standard - form the core of a program that starts with the first $15,000 maiden-claiming race of the meet.

The feature race is a $56,000, third-level allowance that drew what appears to be a well-matched field of fillies and mares. Prof. McGonagall, a 4-year-old Storm Cat filly making her first start in nearly three months, is one of a half-dozen or so legitimate contenders in the featured eighth of nine races, which will be run at 1 1/16 miles on the turf course.

, bred and owned by Alex Campbell Jr. of Lexington, was narrowly defeated when last tried at this level. Robby Albarado has the call from trainer Alison Register.

Other logical choices include Ocean Silk, Constant Touch, Very Very, Brunilda, and Border Blues.

The preceding race, a $52,000, first-level allowance for 3-year-olds and up, has as the horse to beat for jockey Rafael Bejarano and trainer Steve Hobby. A 3-year-old son of Lil's Lad, Sampson's Son went wide on the turn for home in his last start and was unable to run down the victorious Conservationist.

In the two earlier allowances, , with Albarado aboard, looks good in the fourth race, another $52,000 entry-level race, while You're Darn Tootin, shooting for his third straight victory, should be tough once again in the sixth race, a $54,000, second-level turf allowance that drew a field of 10.

As for the first race, a $15,000 maiden-claimer that drew a full field of fillies, the current reality in Kentucky - as on other circuits - is that Keeneland racing secretary Ben Huffman has little choice but to round out his programs with a race or two for lower-end runners. In earlier years, Keeneland refused to write races at so low a level, but high- and middle-level claiming horses that might otherwise fill races seem to be in short supply.

Also on Wednesday is a $7,500 claimer (race 3) and a starter allowance (race 5) for horses that have run for $5,000 or less within the last year.

The Wednesday card is one of three at the meet without a stakes. First post is 1:15 p.m. Eastern.