05/05/2005 12:00AM

A price could be had in Churchill 'Cap


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - When a race is so competitive that the morning-line favorite is 4-1, handicappers know they're probably in for a good time. A struggle, maybe, but a good time nonetheless, since nice payoffs are virtually assured.

And when that race happens to be the Grade 2 Churchill Downs Handicap, and the day happens to be Kentucky Derby Day, and the field happens to include 12 of the best sprinters that American racing can offer, well, making a beeline to the mutuel windows has seldom been so much fun.

"I didn't quite know what I was getting into," said a bemused Chuck Simon, who will saddle Battle Won for the $200,000 Churchill Handicap. "Obviously this is an extremely well-matched race."

figures as one of the middle-priced horses in a seven-furlong race that has Pomeroy, who drew the outside post, as the lukewarm program favorite. Until returning with a seventh-place finish in the recent Shakertown Stakes on the Keeneland turf course, Pomeroy had been laid off since his explosive victory in the Grade 1 King's Bishop Stakes last summer at Saratoga.

"He should go forward off that race," said Pomeroy's trainer, Patrick Biancone. "We're going turf to dirt, I'm taking blinkers back off the horse, and the outside post should give him a clear trip. He should run very well, I think."

Other contenders in the Churchill 'Cap include Lion Tamer, winner of the Grade 1 Cigar Mile last fall; Gold Storm, a very quick gelding who figures to force a fast early pace; Grand Reward, who turns back in distance after winning the 1 1/8-mile Oaklawn Handicap in his last start; and Sir Shackleton, the beaten favorite last month in the Commonwealth at Keeneland.

The Churchill 'Cap is the fifth of 12 Saturday races, and the first of six Derby Day stakes. It leads off an all-stakes pick six for which Churchill has guaranteed a $500,000 pool. Post time for the Churchill is 1:21 p.m. Eastern.