06/20/2006 11:00PM

Making the best of a tough hand

Lady of Venice is being considered for the American Oaks at Hollywood.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Some say laughter is the best medicine. For trainer David MacLean, who is terminally ill with pancreatic cancer, winning horse races is what keeps him feeling good.

He did just that Saturday when Miss Meggie won a maiden race on the Stephen Foster undercard. Even when MacLean was interviewed Wednesday, the rush from the win hadn't even begun to wear off. He remained excited, exhibiting the exuberance of someone half his 49 years of age.

Despite having what he said was an unsuccessful chemotherapy treatment in December - leaving doctors to conclude that he has a limited time to live - MacLean approaches everything he does with a never-ending positive attitude. It wasn't always that way, he said.

A husband and father of two sons, he went through a difficult time after the cancer was diagnosed, he said. He then came to the conclusion that he wanted to make the most of whatever time he had left.

"Quality of life is everything," he said.

With three horses under his care at Churchill Downs' Trackside training facility in Louisville, MacLean is a long way removed from his peak years as a trainer in the 1990's, when he trained for Dick Duchossois in Illinois. He looks back at those years with some regret, realizing he didn't fully appreciate the chance to train as many as 40 horses.

"I wish I knew then what I know now," he said. "I would have enjoyed every minute of it."

As for right now, MacLean says he loving being in Kentucky and participating in racing. Miss Meggie and the two other horses he trains have given him a new lease on life, he said.

If his condition does not deteriorate in the coming months, "I wouldn't mind going to Saratoga," he said. "That would be good for my health."

In the meantime, he plans to run Mama I'm Home, one of his other horses, in a race at Churchill Saturday, and start Onemorebourbon, another one of his trainees, in the near future. Before Saturday, MacLean's most recent wins had both come at Woodbine - in August 2005 and December 2004.

Beau Genius tops Saturday card

Last week Churchill Downs ran six stakes as part of its Stephen Foster card. This weekend, payback time arrives for that glut of stakes action. There are no regularly scheduled stakes on tap, only an overnight handicap on Saturday, the $70,000 Beau Genius Stakes at five furlongs on turf.

Churchill's racing secretary, Doug Bredar, expects a field of about eight 3-year-olds, led by Chief What It Is, Scruples In, Smart Enough, and Stalwartly.

He isn't anticipating a big drop off in wagering following last week's blowout.

"From the numbers I've seen, we typically don't take that big of a hit," he said.

Even if Churchill is a bit off its customary numbers, the payoff from running multiple stakes on a card is well worth it, he said, pointing to the handle from Saturday's Stephen Foster card being up over $1 million.

The Regret and Mint Julep Stakes did particularly well in handle, he said, while small fields hurt wagering on the Jefferson Cup and Fleur de Lis.

The Jefferson Cup and Fleur de Lis faced competition for runners. The Jefferson Cup, with a $200,000 purse, lost some horses to the $1 million Colonial Cup at Colonial Downs this Saturday. And the Fleur de Lis was run on the same day as the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps Handicap at Belmont Park.

Decision pending on Lady of Venice

Lady of Venice, a four-length winner of the Regret, is under consideration for the $750,000 American Oaks July 2 at Hollywood Park, but a decision will not be made until Saturday, trainer Patrick Biancone said.

He said he wants to observe her for the next few days before deciding to run her back that quickly.

"We'll let the horse decide," he said.