04/30/2004 12:00AM

Mud helps Lead Story turn tables


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The first time Lead Story met Sightseek, in Gulfstream Park's Rampart Handicap earlier this year, it was no contest. Sightseek was an easy winner, finishing nearly 10 lengths in front of Lead Story.

The two fillies met for a second time in Friday's $300,000 Louisville Handicap and again it was no contest. But this time it was Lead Story who came out on top by three-quarters of a lengths over Yell, with Sightseek laboring home a tired fourth as the 2-5 favorite in the Grade 2 stakes for fillies and mares.

A sloppy racetrack was likely the major reason for the drastic turnaround between the two fillies. Lead Story relished the off track and Sightseek obviously struggled in the slop.

"She just didn't handle the track at all," said Jerry Bailey, who rode Sightseek for trainer Bobby Frankel. "She stumbled about five times while warming up and I didn't have a very good feeling going into the gate."

Lead Story, ridden by Calvin Borel, lagged at the rear of the pack during the opening half-mile of the 1 1/16-mile Louisville. Cat Fighter set relatively leisurely fractions of 24.38 seconds and 47.89 with Sightseek caught in a compromising position between horses in the second flight, less than two lengths off the lead.

Sightseek remained in close contention but appeared to be laboring around the second turn, at which point Lead Story was in high gear. As Sightseek fell back, Lead Story readily overtook Cat Fighter in early stretch, drew off, then withstood a mild rally by Yell.

Yell raced on even terms with Sightseek while saving ground early, came outside Lead Story into the stretch, and was gaining slowly on her near the end. Cat Fighter weakened gradually in the final furlong to finish third.

Lead Story, a 5-year-old daughter of Editor's Note, is trained by Carl Nafzger for owner A. Steven Miles Jr. She ran the distance in 1:44.37 and paid $22.

"This filly runs good everywhere but she really loves Churchill Downs and really loves the mud," said Nafzger. "The last time we faced Sightseek it was at Gulfstream Park, and that track doesn't give you any chance if you're not close to the pace. I was scared the pace was too slow today but then she came a running."

Nafzger had only one complaint after the race.

"I don't know why this race isn't a Grade 1," he said with a smile.