04/10/2003 11:00PM

Party Queen set to rebound

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - The subtleties of pace can expose the flaws of even the most impressive of racehorses. Party Queen, who looked so overpowering in winning a third-level allowance race over the Gulfstream Park grass course in January, looked equally helpless when she finished ninth nearly seven weeks later in the Suwannee River Handicap there.

Trainer Vicki Oliver said the stretchout from about a mile in Party Queen's allowance victory to the 1 1/8 miles of the Suwannee River, her first stakes appearance, partially accounted for the filly's lackluster showing. "They came home the last quarter in something like 23 and change, and we had too much left to do," said Oliver. "Nothing happened."

Oliver is hoping a lot more happens Sunday when Party Queen runs in the $100,000 Jenny Wiley Stakes at Keeneland. Party Queen, a 4-year-old Cozzene filly, prompted considerable talk of a promising future by winning four of her first five career starts, so Oliver is as eager as anyone to see her run well in the 1 1/16-mile Jenny Wiley.

Oliver, whose father, G. Watts Humphrey, owns Party Queen, pointed out that the early pace of the Suwannee River was sluggish. The leaders went the first half-mile in 49.62 seconds and six furlongs in 1:13.31.

"It's tough to make up that kind of ground against good fillies when they're moving along that slow," Oliver said. "Hopefully by going back to a mile and a sixteenth, we'll get a little more pace Sunday. She's been doing really well since her last race, and she won over this course last spring, so we're hoping for a better race."

Probably the foremost obstacles for Party Queen are a couple of stakes-seasoned mares: Quick Tip, an earner of more than $562,000, and Snow Dance, who has bankrolled nearly $735,00. In all, 12 fillies were entered, although Keeneland limits all turf races to 10 starters.

The Jenny Wiley, carded as the sixth race, is the secondary feature on a card highlighted by the $250,000 Commonwealth Breeders' Cup.

Sellers on Ocean Terrace

Ocean Terrace, who bled when he finished ninth and last as the 6-1 third choice in the Santa Anita Derby last weekend, will be ridden by Shane Sellers in his next start, the $325,000 Coolmore Lexington Stakes next Saturday.

Going into the Santa Anita Derby, Ocean Terrace, owned by Fog City Stable and trained by Bob Hess Jr., was unbeaten in three starts. Hess said the bleeding incident was relatively minor and that, more than anything else, he and the owners were dissatisfied with the front-running tactics employed by jockey Kent Desormeaux.

Hess said he wanted to give Ocean Terrace a chance to make the Kentucky Derby and that the Lexington represented the last logical opportunity to earn a starting berth.

Sellers's agent, Fred Aime, said he and Hess did not discuss whether Sellers would get to ride Ocean Terrace in the May 3 Derby if the colt runs well enough to proceed to Churchill Downs. Before suffering a severe knee injury in December 2000, Sellers had ridden in 11 straight runnings (1990-2000) of the Kentucky Derby.

With Ocean Terrace added to the mix, the Grade 2 Lexington has at least 11 probable starters, led by Midas Eyes, the eye-popping winner of the March 15 Swale Stakes for Bobby Frankel. Others under serious consideration are Champali, Eye of the Tiger, Home of Stars, Ministers Wild Cat, Most Feared, Scrimshaw, Showdown, Touch the Wire, and Trust N Luck.

Jerry Bailey has the mount on Midas Eyes.

Last-ditch Derby try by Lukas

D. Wayne Lukas conceded Friday that Scrimshaw, a Gulch colt who finished a distant fourth in the Feb. 15 Hutcheson Stakes at Gulfstream in his most recent start, most likely represents his last chance to have a runner in the Kentucky Derby this year. Scrimshaw displaced his palate in the Hutcheson and had corrective throat surgery shortly thereafter.

Scrimshaw, owned by Bob and Beverly Lewis, will have Mike Smith aboard in the Lexington, which Lukas has used as a last-ditch Derby prep with notable success in recent years. In 1999, Charismatic won the Lexington at 12-1 before he captured the Derby and Preakness, and last year, Proud Citizen won the Lexington at 8-1 before he finished second to War Emblem in the Derby.

Lukas has had at least one starter in the Derby for 21 of the last 22 runnings. Lukas was to saddle Ten Cents a Shine in Saturday's Blue Grass Stakes.

Howard's reliable filly

This is an exciting time of year for Neil Howard, whose stable has been relatively quiet in the last couple of seasons. Howard has a handful of horses pointing to upcoming stakes, the first of which comes Sunday when Quick Tip, owned by Will Farish, runs in the Jenny Wiley.

Quick Tip, said Howard, is "reliable. Period. That really describes her the best. She has been such a good, honest filly for us that Mr. Farish has decided that if she keeps doing the way she has, we're going to keep racing her the rest of this year, knock on wood."

Meanwhile, the star of the Howard barn, Mineshaft, is scheduled to run here closing day, April 25, in the $100,000 Ben Ali Stakes at 1 1/8 miles. In his last start, Mineshaft captured the $500,000 New Orleans Handicap. Howard said the Ben Ali will serve as a prep for the Grade 1 Pimlico Special on May 17.

"We gave him a little busman's holiday for a couple weeks" after the New Orleans 'Cap, said Howard. "Since then, he's been back into high training mode" at Churchill Downs, where Howard is stabled.

Political Risk, a sharp winner of an entry-level allowance here last Sunday in his third career start, will run next in the May 24 Peter Pan Stakes, said Howard. Political Risk is a 3-year-old A.P. Indy colt out of the standout mare Two Altazano.

"He's been looking to us like one of those typical later-coming A.P. Indy types," said Howard.

Rock Slide, who ran poorly in an allowance route last Sunday when he returned from a brief layoff, now will be shifted to the grass. "He's nominated to some of the bigger races at Churchill, but we're probably going to look for an allowance spot for him," said Howard.

Long wait for coveted autographs

It was 10:30 Friday morning, and some five hours after rolling out of bed and pulling into Keeneland, Joe DeMarco's morning work was finally done.

Wheeling a cardboard carton of four specially made Maker's Mark bottles behind him, DeMarco had just exited the Equestrian room after managing to get four signatures on each of the black-and-gold bottles that commemorate the 30-year anniversary of Secretariat's Triple Crown.

Seated at adjoining tables, autographing the bottles for hundreds of fans who lined up well before dawn were Penny Chenery, who owned Secretariat, and Ron Turcotte, who rode him; Nick Nicholson, president of Keeneland; and Bill Samuels, president of Maker's Mark.

The line for autographs moved extremely slowly, but DeMarco, a 40-year-old Lexington resident, said the end result was "worth the wait."

You now targets Doubledogdare

You, the Frankel star who was scratched Wednesday from the Madison Stakes because of a sloppy track, definitely will be entered with the intention of running back Wednesday in the $100,000 Doubledogdare Stakes at 1 1/16 miles. Bailey will ride.

Besides You, the field for the Doubledogdare is expected to include Belterra and probably another four or five fillies and mares.