08/29/2006 11:00PM

Main talent crossing border for holiday

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The signature races to be run this weekend at River Downs in Cincinnati will carry a familiar look, with ship-ins from Churchill Downs likely to occupy favorite's roles.

Churchill horses dominate the outlook for both the $100,000 Bassinet Stakes, to be run Saturday, and the $200,000 Cradle Stakes, set for Monday. The six-furlong Bassinet, which was drawn Tuesday, drew 11 2-year-old fillies, while the 1 1/16-mile Cradle, which was to be drawn Thursday, was expected to draw a similarly large field of 2-year-old colts and geldings.

Five of the top six wagering choices in the Bassinet could very well be fillies based at Churchill in Louisville, Ky. They are the Ken McPeek-trained duo of Nola Star and Rapidian, the Bernie Flint duo of Cohiba Miss and Babes, and the Eddie Kenneally-trained Taletobetold.

The only other Bassinet starter whose form looks strong enough to place her among the top wagering echelon is Devil House, a Chester House filly based at Fairmount Park with Terry Gestes. Devil House is 2 for 3 lifetime, having most recently won the Bassinet prep at River by 8 1/4 lengths Aug. 13.

Nola Star, to be ridden by Mark Guidry, brings the top last-race Beyer Speed Figure into the race after earning a 76 in an Aug. 5 maiden race at Arlington Park.

McPeek also will be bringing a strong hand to the Cradle. He could start as many as three horses: Bold Start, Loose Leaf, and Hey Bill. Loose Leaf was an easy winner of the Aug. 12 Cradle prep at River.

The McPeek contingent will be challenged by Passport, a Claiborne Farm homebred trained by Frank Brothers; Trophy Road, an Ohio-bred based at Louisville Trackside with trainer Mike Maker; Wham, a recent Ellis Park maiden winner for trainer Ralph Nicks; Wannabeinclued, a Louisiana shipper trained by Cecil Borel; and the respective second and third finishers in the Cradle prep, Mister Cugat and Cajun Mon. Another two or three horses are possible starters.

In most years, Churchill runners win at least one, if not both, meet-ending features at River. Laity won the Cradle last year for Claiborne and Brothers, and Flint sent out the 1-2-4 finishers two years ago in the Bassinet. Churchill horses swept both races in 2002 and 2003.

* A memorial tribute for trainer Jeff Williams will be held before the first race on Cradle Day. Williams was among the 49 people killed Sunday in the Comair crash in Lexington, Ky.