11/11/2003 12:00AM

Mrs. Revere fits bill for these fillies

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Money may be the world's most powerful motivator, but in racing, favorable race conditions apparently rank a close second.

Saturday's Grade 2, $150,000 Mrs. Revere Stakes at Churchill Downs is case in point. Although the purse is $350,000 less than the purse for last month's Grade 1, $500,000 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Keeneland, the Mrs. Revere is expected to attract essentially the same field. Film Maker, Casual Look, Ocean Drive, and Aud - the first-, third-, fourth-, and sixth-place finishers from the Queen Elizabeth II - are likely to run, along with a number of newcomers who should contribute to a full field.

Why are the connections of these runners so eager to run their horses for a purse worth 70 percent less than the Queen Elizabeth II's? The Mrs. Revere is the last graded stakes race for 3-year-old fillies on grass this year.

A number of these fillies got their final tune-ups for the race Tuesday morning, including Casual Look, the likely Mrs. Revere favorite. She breezed four furlongs in 48.60 seconds around the dogs on a firm Churchill Downs turf course.

The Mrs. Revere will be the second race in the United States for Casual Look, who finished a fast-closing third behind Film Maker in the Queen Elizabeth II, an effort that pleased trainer Neil Howard. She had won the Group 1 English Oaks earlier in the year in Britain.

In the 1 1/8-mile QE II, said Howard, jockey Robby Albarado "had to wait to get her out and commence her run. Coming off mile-and-a-half races and backing up, for her to only get beat three-quarters of a length was a great effort."

Howard and owner Will Farish had considered waiting to run Casual Look in the 1 1/8-mile Cardinal against older fillies and mares Nov. 22, but opted to run her against strictly 3-year-old fillies, even though it meant running her in the Mrs. Revere at 1 1/16 miles, a distance they believe might be short of her best. "We've worked on sharpening her for this race," said Howard.

With Albarado not riding because of a broken wrist, Pat Day will substitute.

Other probables for the Mrs. Revere who breezed Tuesday were Aud (half-mile, 48.80 seconds), Keiai Sakura (half-mile, 50.20), Tiva's Little Six (half-mile, 50). Dyna Da Wyna, a possible starter, was timed with a five-furlong move in 59.80.

Mymich and Hoh Buzzard, a West Coast-based filly, are also expected to run.

River City starters get in works

The fillies were not the only ones working on the grass course Tuesday morning. A number of talented male grass runners breezed in preparation for Sunday's Grade 3 River City Handicap.

One of those was Warleigh. With trainer Steve Asmussen observing him from the grandstand, he breezed a half-mile around the dogs in 50.60. He closed his final quarter in 23.60.

Warleigh, a 5-year-old Lord at War horse, has won two stakes for Asmussen at Louisiana Downs since being claimed for $100,000 at Saratoga in August. "I was watching this horse at Saratoga, and I thought, 'Boy, this horse would sure look good in the Midwest,' " he said.

Now Warleigh gets his chance to see if he fits in graded company. "I think he's fast enough," Asmussen said.

Della Francesca and Hard Buck, considered likely River City starters, each breezed five furlongs on the turf. Della Francesca, working in company, was timed in 1:03.20. Hard Buck went in 1:01.40.

Hard Buck, winner of the Kentucky Cup Mile, is one of several former Brazilian runners that trainer Ken McPeek now has in his stable. McPeek said the horse has done well in recent weeks after recovering from a quarter crack.

Freefourinternet, sixth in the Breeders' Cup Mile, may start as a slight favorite in the $150,000 River City. Others expected for the 1 1/8-mile turf race include Sharbayan, Gretchen's Star, False Promises, Act of War, and Dr. Kashnikow, who won the past two runnings of the River City.

Counting Trackside, business is up

Despite ongoing construction, business at Churchill Downs is ahead of last year's pace. Through the first two weeks of the meet, attendance and handle are up from last year, if attendance and wagering at Churchill Downs Trackside, the offtrack wagering facility, is taken into account. Trackside, closed during live racing in past years, has been open to accommodate fans during the construction of the new grandstand.

Average ontrack handle is up nearly 8 percent to $986,560. Offtrack handle has risen 18 percent to $6,696,418. Total handle has risen 16 percent, to $7,682,979.

The rise in handle is partially attributable to bigger fields. Churchill is averaging 10.14 starters per race, up almost a horse per race from last year. Favorable weather for much of the first two weeks has also contributed to the positive numbers, according to Steve Sexton, president of Churchill Downs.

* The Cliff's Edge, winner of the Grade 3 Iroquois, breezed five furlongs Tuesday on the main track in 1:02.20. He is being pointed toward the Kentucky Jockey Club Nov. 29.

* Jockey Shane Sellers, who fractured his tailbone in a paddock accident last week, hopes to return to riding next weekend, his agent, Fred Aime, said Tuesday. Sellers was examined by his doctor over the weekend and was feeling less soreness. Aime said Sellers wants to return in time to ride Quick Tip, who will be one of the favorites for the $150,000 Cardinal Handicap Nov. 22.

* Honor in War, who wrenched an ankle while training at Churchill Downs for the Breeders' Cup Mile, has been given a break and turned out at a farm, trainer Paul McGee said. Winner of the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve on Kentucky Derby Day, he had been considered for the River City and Clark handicaps this meet, but did not bounce back quickly enough. McGee said Honor in War should return in the late spring, perhaps at the end of the Gulfstream Park meet.