07/10/2003 11:00PM

Omaha the finale of meet


OMAHA, Neb. - Horsemen's Park closes out its four-day summer racing festival on Sunday with a strong field of 10 entered in the $100,000 Omaha Handicap.

Two of the entrants, Slider and Vito Corleone, have also been entered in Saturday's Grade 3 Cornhusker Handicap at Prairie Meadows. While Slider, the Omaha's likely favorite and 119-pound highweight, is expected to run at Prairie Meadows, trainer Ray Tracy is reportedly leaning toward the Omaha with Vito Corleone. Should Slider elect to run in Iowa, Stormy Impact would inherit the role of starting highweight in the Omaha at 116 pounds for trainer Frank Kirby.

This renewal of the Omaha is the strongest in the race's six-year history. Winning Connection may rate the slight edge in this spot for trainer Joe Woodard, who also trains Slider. Winning Connection, a winner of 20 races from 58 starts, runs from just off the pace and should be in striking position when the field turns for home. Rodney Prescott rides at 115 pounds from post 6.

Although winless in five starts this year, Chicago shipper Stormy Impact has not been worse than fourth in any of his races and looms a solid threat. In his last start, he finished third to Apt to Be in the Dr. Fager Handicap at Arlington Park. Chris Emigh is scheduled to ride from post 7.

Dusty Spike returns to the state after capturing the $100,000 Bosselman/Gus Fonner Handicap in late April. He followed that win with a nonthreatening eighth-place finish in the Grade 3 Lone Star Park Handicap in late May. Based in Oklahoma with trainer Mark Lee, Dusty Spike has been working sharply at Remington Park. Kerry Kretzer is scheduled to ride from post 9 at 115 pounds.

Sunday's undercard stakes is the $27,500 Skunktail Stakes for 3-year-old Nebraska-breds going a mile. Owner-trainer LaVerne Ballhagen's High Tech Racing comes into the race off a 6 3/4-length win over many of the same rivals in the State Fair Breeders' Stakes at Lincoln in June. Armando Martinez will ride.

* Verzene rallied from just off the pace to capture the $29,800 Fantango Lady Stakes for 3-year-old Nebraska-bred fillies on Thursday evening. A maiden making her second career start, Verzene was the 5-2 second choice in a field of eight. Trained by Hugh Robertson and ridden by Ken Shino, Verzene scored by 1 1/2 lengths in 1:42.20 for the mile over a fast track.