11/12/2008 12:00AM

Only five competing for $46,000


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - What one Churchill Downs Inc. entry box giveth Friday, the other hath taken away.

Not that the two are necessarily related, and surely it is more coincidence than anything else, but a plethora of entries - 111, including also-eligibles - for opening day at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans is partly tempered by what appears to be a subpar 10-race card at the company's flagship track.

With only five fillies entered in the richest race of the day at Churchill, the nominal feature has been relegated to the second race, with Tazarine, Day of Victory, and A to the Croft the logical contenders racing for a $46,000 purse under a third-level allowance restriction.

"It's not one of our best cards of the meet, but overall we've been doing very well with field size this fall," said Churchill racing secretary Ben Huffman, noting that races have averaged "close to 10" starters, versus "a little more than eight" at the 2008 spring meet. "This is more an aberration than anything else."

For the typical late-arriving, happy-hour Friday crowd at Churchill, a six-furlong starter-allowance will suffice as the highlight of the later part of the program. Seven 2-year-old fillies, who, according to the race conditions, "have broken their maidens for $40,000 and which have not won two races" will compete for a $23,400 purse in the ninth race.

Rose of Aran figures as the horse to beat in the starter race, especially if she can duplicate her latest effort, when she rallied from well back to defeat maiden-claiming sprinters. Vickie Foley, the co-owner and trainer of Rose of Aran, has named E.T. Baird back aboard.

In all, as many as 87 horses can run Friday. One of the eye-catching entries is Miss Wild Zone in the fifth race, a turf route for maiden fillies and mares. Miss Wild Zone is a 7-year-old mare who has two last-place finishes from as many career starts. She was entered by owner-trainer F. Lee McKinney as part of an overflow field.

w Ten fillies and mares have been entered for the lone stakes of the weekend here, the $100,000 Cardinal Handicap on Saturday. Among the top contenders for the Grade 3 Cardinal, which goes at 1 1/8 miles on turf, are Callwood Dancer, Brownie Points, Lady Digby, and Ciao.