10/07/2004 11:00PM

Meet opens with dramatics

Champali (7) edges Gold Storm to win the Grade 3 Phoenix Breeders' Cup at Keeneland on Friday, the first of the track's 17-day fall meet.

LEXINGTON, Ky. - The weather was sensational - almost as good as the racing - when Keeneland opened Friday with the first of its 17 fall programs. Indeed, while an exuberant crowd of 18,681 reveled in ideal conditions, it was the series of dramatic events on the racetrack that left a more lasting impression.

Most notably, it was two major stakes that not only carried opening day, but also should carry substantial impact toward the Breeders' Cup: Champali overcame what had appeared to be an inside bias to win a hotly contested running of the Grade 3 Phoenix Breeders' Cup, and Runway Model was up in the final jump to win a three-filly photo in the Grade 2 Darley Alcibiades Stakes. Both were ridden by North American wins leader Rafael Bejarano.

At the very least, the Oct. 30 Breeders' Cup at Lone Star Park will get the winners of both races. The Phoenix also appears likely to produce its two-three finishers, Gold Storm and Clock Stopper, for the BC Sprint, while the Alcibiades not only will have Runway Model, but perhaps one, two, or more who finished in close contention.

Besides resulting in the first career defeat for the tough-luck odds-on favorite, Sense of Style, who ran fifth, beaten just two lengths, the $400,000 Alcibiades was notable for its frantic finish. In the Gold led with just a few strides to go, but Sharp Lisa edged past her from the rail, as Runway Model flew past both right on the wire.

"We're throwing our hat in the ring," said winning trainer Bernie Flint.

Runway Model, a Petionville filly owned by Naveed Chowan, returned $36.40 after finishing 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.31 over a fast track. The Alcibiades was the third win, and first in a stakes, for Runway Model, who was coming off second-place finishes in the Bassinet Stakes and Arlington-Washington Lassie.

Sharp Lisa, an 11-1 shot, was making just her second career start and finished a head behind the winner and a nose ahead of In the Gold, an 11-1 shot who had a half-length on fourth finisher Dance Away Capote.

Sense of Style, the 3-5 choice off wins in the Spinaway and Matron, tracked the pace from the rail under Edgar Prado, but after being crowded back in the turn for home, she did not have sufficient punch. With Sense of Style off the board, show mutuels on the top three ballooned to $19.20, $16.80, and $15.60.

In the $271,250 Phoenix BC, the victory by Champali was particularly hard earned, considering how horses with speed or inside trips mostly dominated dirt races Friday. Champali appeared to be laboring four wide when urged by Bejarano to stay near a sizzling pace, yet still persevered to win by three-quarters of a length over Gold Storm, who raced nearest the rail on fractions of 21.19 and 43.95.

Champali, said winning trainer Greg Foley, "has so much heart. It was a great race. He earned his way to Texas today."

A 4-year-old Glitterman colt owned by the Lloyd Madison Farms syndicate, Champali returned $10 as second choice in a field of 11. The victory was his 11th from 20 starts and lifted his earnings to $1,073,794.

Clock Stopper, the 9-5 favorite, had a wide and unlucky trip under Pat Day, rallying strongly and finishing a neck behind Gold Storm. Super Fuse and Wildcat Heir dead-heated for fourth, a neck behind Clock Stopper.

In other races Friday:

* Day won his 900th Keeneland race, easily the most in track history, when coaxing favored Tikkanita to a narrow victory in the 10th and final race. The win was the second of the day for the Hall of Fame jockey.

* Trainer D. Wayne Lukas got his 250th Keeneland victory when Storied Cat ($5), ridden by Day, won the fifth race. Lukas is the track's all-time leading trainer.

* Trainer Vickie Foley, Greg's sister, won the race immediately after the Phoenix when Prince Prado ($26.40) barely out-nodded favored Ten Cents a Shine in a $53,980 turf allowance.

* The third race produced quirky mutuels when Summerly ($15.20) led all the way to win a maiden race over Dottie Booth, an 87-1 shot. The $2 exacta paid $378.80, and the $2 quinella returned $1,535.40.

* Tricky Devil ($12.60) scored an 18 3/4-length win in the first, a 6 1/2-furlong race for $40,000 maiden claimers.