10/10/2001 12:00AM

Oliver, First Lieutenant well connected


LEXINGTON, Ky. - Just because his in-laws are highly prominent Lexington horse people doesn't mean there is added pressure on trainer Phil Oliver to win at Keeneland.

"I'm just like everybody else," said Oliver. "It's always nice to win at Keeneland, whoever you are."

On Friday, Oliver will saddle First Lieutenant, one of the major contenders in the eighth-race feature, the $75,000 Warfield Stakes. Eight older horses have been entered in the 1 1/16-mile race.

Oliver, 31, is married to the former Vicki Humphrey, whose father, G. Watts Humphrey Jr., is a successful breeder and owner and serves on the board of directors of several major racing entities, including the Keeneland Association. Humphrey, either solely or in partnerships, has bred or owned such top horses as Cr?me Fraiche, Sacahuista, Noble Damsel, Likely Exchange, Clear Mandate, and, most recently, Victory Ride.

Oliver, a native of Great Britain who has been training in the United States for about four years, knows something about impressive credentials. He worked as an assistant in England under Stan Meller, a former champion steeplechase jockey and trainer, and Lester Piggott, the legendary jockey who also became a trainer.

Oliver had considered First Lieutenant for the Sept. 22 Kentucky Cup Classic until he saw that Guided Tour and Balto Star, the eventual one-two finishers, were headed that way. "I started looking for something else," said Oliver, who finally settled on the Warfield.

First Lieutenant, a 4-year-old homebred owned by Humphrey, has won four of his last six starts, a record that should make him one of the favorites in the Warfield. He last raced Aug. 26, finishing second to Broken Vow in the Grade 2 Iselin Handicap at Monmouth Park.

His latest breeze Monday at Keeneland "was a good one," said Oliver. "He's dead fit."

Vicki Oliver also is a trainer. The couple has made an annual circuit of Florida, Monmouth, and both Keeneland meets.

Probably the top challengers to First Lieutenant are Neon Shadow and Storm Day. Neon Shadow, trained by Carl Bowman, figures to be on or near the lead under Pat Day, while Storm Day has been competitive in this kind of company recently.

The rest of the field consists of Connected, Northcote Road, Double Affair, Bare Outline, and Glacial.

Double Affair upset the Warfield at 10-1 last year.

Three allowance races also are carded Friday, when first post is 1:15 p.m.

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