05/02/2006 12:00AM

Pletcher works one in slop

Battle Won looks for a repeat win in the Churchill Downs Handicap.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - On Tuesday morning Todd Pletcher was hoping to work a bunch of his horses pointing stakes races this weekend. But the Churchill Downs main track was such a mess that he only sent out English Channel, who went four furlongs in 51.80 seconds in the slop in preparation for Saturday's $400,000 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic at 1 1/8 miles on the turf.

Pletcher said he worked only English Channel "because he's running in a Grade 1 on Saturday and the others aren't."

Pletcher wanted to work English Channel on the turf, but the turf course was not open for workouts. Pletcher noted that English Channel did work five furlongs on the turf in 1:02 last week.

English Channel made a successful 4-year-old debut, winning the Canadian Turf Handicap on March 11 at Gulfstream Park. That was his first start since finishing fifth in the Breeders' Cup Turf last year.

Despite working English Channel a relatively slow half-mile on Tuesday, Pletcher doesn't believe fitness will be an issue with English Channel because he never worked the horse farther than four furlongs leading up to the Canadian Turf Handicap.

"From the Breeders' Cup to the race he ran in Florida, he never worked over a half-mile, so he's plenty fit," Pletcher said.

There are five Grade 1 winners being pointed to the Woodford. They are Einstein, Perfect Drift, Good Reward, Honor in War, and Milk It Mick. Also expected to run are Cacique, Cool Conductor, Fort Prado, Gorella, and either Silver Tree or Silver Whistle.

Sweet Symphony in Louisville BC

Trainer Bill Mott is usually quite active on Oaks and Derby Day and this year will be no different. Among the stakes races he will be a participant in is Friday's $300,000 Louisville Breeders' Cup, sending out George Steinbrenner's Sweet Symphony.

Sweet Symphony won the first four races of her career, including the Grade 1 Alabama last summer at Saratoga. She has lost her last three starts, including a second-place finish to Oonagh Maccool in the Rampart Handicap on March 25 at Gulfstream. Oonagh Maccool will be one of Sweet Symphony's rivals again on Friday.

"It was okay," Mott said of Sweet Symphony's first start. "The mare that beat her, they think [she's] all right."

Sweet Symphony worked five furlongs in 1:01 on Sunday at Churchill Downs in a move that Mott said "for her is very good."

Mott will also run Performing Diva in Friday's $100,000 Edgewood Stakes on turf and Go Between in the Crown Royal American Turf.

Battle Won to defend title

Trainer Chuck Simon is confident that Battle Won will give a good account of himself in defense of his title in Saturday's Grade 2 Churchill Downs Handicap. But Simon said he'll be a little less confident if his horse has the misfortune to draw post 1 for the seven-furlong dash.

"I'm just praying we just don't draw the rail because he has had trouble breaking from the inside in the past," Simon said Tuesday.

Battle Won, who rallied to an easy 3 1/2-length victory over Level Playingfield in the 2005 Churchill Downs Handicap, has broken from post 1 four times. He came away from the gate last in three of the four starts, including the Grade 3 Aristides Handicap at Churchill Downs in 2004, a race in which he recovered to finish third.

When asked what he would do if Battle Won draws the rail on Saturday, Simon didn't hesitate.

"I'll cry, bitch, moan, and run anyway," he said.

A strong field is expected for the Churchill Downs Handicap. Along with Battle One, it could also include Level Playingfield, the undefeated Charging Indian, Vicarage, Wild Tale, Oceanus, and Bucharest.

First recipients of $25,000 bonus

Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher presented Mike and Jeanne Owens - the breeders of Blue Grass Stakes winner and Kentucky Derby hopeful Sinister Minister - a check for $25,000 Tuesday in a ceremony on the Churchill Downs backstretch.

The reward is a component of the Kentucky Thoroughbred Breeders Incentive Fund established last year. The fund is made up of revenue from sales tax paid on stallion stud fees. As part of the fund, breeders of Kentucky-breds who win Grade 1 races earn a bonus of $25,000. The Owenses are the first recipients of that award.

"It will go back into the industry," Mike Owens said. "That's something small breeders do, invest back in the industry, so it's a win-win for Kentucky."

The breeders of a Kentucky-bred that wins the Kentucky Derby or Kentucky Oaks receives a check for $100,000. Twelve of the 14 runners in the Oaks are Kentucky-breds. Sixteen of the 20 horses expected to run in the Kentucky Derby are Kentucky-breds.

The Owenses foaled and raised Sinister Minister at Cobra Farm. They sold Sinister Minister's dam, Sweet Minister, earlier this year to central Kentucky breeder Marvin Little after the mare, in foal to City Zip, failed to meet her $47,000 reserve at the Keeneland January sale of horses of all ages.

- additional reporting by Mike Welsch