07/01/2002 11:00PM

For Morluc, the plan is simple: Go, go, go

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - No games. No fooling around. No waiting or rating.

No, the strategy for Morluc in the Firecracker Handicap will be as straightforward as it appears on paper: Go to the front and never look back.

"If they want to go with us," said trainer Randy Morse, "they're going to be going too fast."

Of the 11 horses scheduled to run Thursday in the Grade 2 Firecracker, Morluc offers the most intrigue. As one of the top turf-sprint specialists in North America the last two years, Morluc has little to gain by stretching out to a mile in the Firecracker. Yet Morse, who trains the 6-year-old horse for longtime client Mike Cloonan, believes that a mile is worth a try and that victory is highly plausible.

"He's won going 1 1/16 miles before," said Morse, referring to an allowance victory early in the horse's career. "Whether he can run at this level, obviously that remains to be seen. Besides, this will be his last race for a while."

Morluc will get the rest of the summer off, Morse said, and come back in the fall for the Kentucky Cup Turf Dash at Kentucky Downs and the Nureyev at Keeneland, which Morluc has won the past two years.

Morluc won an allowance prep here last month and will go over the $1 million earnings mark with a first- or second-place finish Thursday.

Garrett Gomez, a California-based jockey who formerly rode on a regular basis for Morse in the Midwest, will fly in to ride Morluc.

"We're going to see how far he can go," said Morse.

Posse looks 'awesome'

Posse, the heavy favorite for the closing-day feature, the $125,000 Bashford Manor Stakes on Sunday, breezed a half-mile Tuesday in 49.60 seconds. Regular rider Donnie Meche was up.

Scott Blasi, assistant to trainer Steve Asmussen, said Posse has been training "awesome" since posting an impressive victory in the May 27 Kentucky Breeders' Cup Stakes.

A small field is expected in the six-furlong, Grade 2 Bashford Manor, with Boston Park, trained by D. Wayne Lukas, likely to be the second choice.

He's everywhere

With the impending close of the Churchill meet, Asmussen's far-flung stable still will continue to operate on three fronts. Blasi said he will take 24 of the stable's top horses to Saratoga, where Meche will ride first call.

"We've also got 44 stalls at Arlington and another 40 to 50 at Louisiana Downs," said Blasi.

Then, tongue firmly planted in cheek, he added: "Hopefully we can win a race somewhere."

Through Tuesday, Asmussen led all North American trainers in wins (195) and starts (883).

* With Holiday Runner out of the $100,000 Debutante Stakes Saturday, a field of about seven or eight 2-year-old fillies is shaping up for the Grade 3 race. Probables for the 5 1/2-furlong Debutante include D'Nile, Bridget Says, and Vibs.

* Orientate, romping winner of the Aristides on Saturday, is scheduled to run back in two weeks. The Lukas-trained colt goes next in the $400,000 Smile Sprint in Calder's July 13 Summit of Speed. He earned a 115 Beyer Speed Figure in the Aristides.

* It appears that Pat Day, who long ago wrapped up his 32nd Churchill riding title, will miss the final three days of the meet. Day will ride Friday at Prairie Meadows and Saturday at Monmouth Park, and even though Buddha, his scheduled mount for Sunday's Dwyer at Belmont, has been declared, Day probably won't return just to ride here closing day.

"He'll probably want to just go on and take off, since he had planned on taking his family to New York for a few days," said Day's agent, Doc Danner.

* It took jockey Jimmy Lopez 52 days to recover from the broken wrist suffered in a May 11 spill. Lopez was scheduled to return to action Tuesday night at Mountaineer Park, then finish out the Churchill meet before heading to Ellis Park, which begins its 41-day meet Wednesday.

* Each of the last four programs at the meet will comprise 11 races, with first post set for 1:10 p.m. each day. The CDSN pick four will be offered Saturday.