06/02/2005 12:00AM

Quarantines ending

Teletimer Photofinish
Peace and Joy (top), trained by Joe Woodard, is nosed out by Vacancy.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - If he could have, Steve Asmussen would have run Sister Swank in the Mint Julep Handicap at Churchill Downs on Saturday. But the results of a second - and, hopefully, final - round of blood tests taken from Asmussen's full barn of horses were not scheduled for return until Saturday night, meaning the earliest that any of those three dozen or so horses can race is Sunday.

Assuming all tests come up negative for the equine herpes virus, Asmussen, along with fellow trainers Paul McGee and Ronny Werner, finally will be freed from the quarantine situation that essentially has shut down their Churchill operations for nearly three weeks. Tests on the McGee horses were scheduled back Friday, meaning his horses - including Cape Town Lass in the Mint Julep - can race as early as Saturday, while test results on the Werner horses were due Monday, meaning his horses can race Wednesday.

Because provisions were made for the quarantined horses to train separately from the rest of the Churchill population, the horses who were sidelined probably will return to action at a minimal disadvantage, said Asmussen.

"I think what will happen," he said slyly, "is my fast horses will run fast, and the slow ones will run slow."

Asmussen acknowledged the manner in which horses trained by Dale Romans have fared extremely well at this meet despite having been sidelined for varying periods of time because of a strangles quarantine in March and April in Kentucky and south Florida. Asmussen said he hopes his horses also will return in winning form, "if only because they have conditions left that they probably would have gone through by now. If a horse should've won by now, you'd have to think they'll be very competitive as soon as they come back.

"I really don't think something like this changes anything dramatic about who any of the horses are."

Woodard's streak ends at 10

After sending out a record 10 straight winners at Churchill, trainer Joe Woodard finally sent out a loser - and just barely. Peace and Joy appeared on his way to extending Woodard's streak to 11 when holding the lead in deep stretch of the sixth race Thursday, but Vacancy, gaining steadily down the middle of a sloppy track, was up in the final jump to hang a wicked beat on Woodard.

"That's a tough way to lose," said Woodard. "But the streak was great while it lasted. It's something we'll always remember. All good things must come to an end, I guess."

An hour earlier, Woodard won his 10th straight when Buba's Caper was on the right end of a tight race. Buba's Caper ($8.20), ridden by Jesus Castanon, rallied to win the fourth race by a half-length. The 8-year-old mare was Woodard's first starter at Churchill in a week. On May 26, Woodard sent out two winners to break Pat Byrne's 1997 track record of eight straight winners.

"I didn't expect [Buba's Caper] to win, I really didn't," said Billy Hays, who owned all but one of Woodard's 10 straight winners. "We just bought this mare in a package deal, trying to get some cheaper horses to run here and at River Downs. I guess she just fit in well."

Peace and Joy, like most of the horses that prevailed for Woodard and Hays during the win streak, was taking a substantial drop in class, having competed for a $30,000 claiming tag in his previous start

March 21 at Mountaineer Park. Bet down to 7-10 favoritism, the gelding took a commanding lead entering the stretch run of the $5,000 claiming sprint, only to be beaten by about three inches by Vacancy ($7.20).

Nine claims were submitted for Buba's Caper, and 14 for Peace and Joy. On May 26, when Woodard and Hays won with Native Bull, a track-record 28 claims were in for him.

Woodard's record applies only to Churchill, since he had sent out losing starters elsewhere since his streak began May 13. The North American record for consecutive wins by a trainer is 14, set by Frank Passero Jr. at Gulfstream Park in 1996.

Summerly seeks Dogwood double

Next weekend's highlights at Churchill are the $150,000 Dogwood Breeders' Cup Stakes, in which Kentucky Oaks winner Summerly will be heavily favored, and the simulcast of the Belmont Stakes. Summerly, who breezed an easy five furlongs here Tuesday in 1:03.40 for Asmussen, will bid to become the first filly to sweep the Oaks and Dogwood since Gal in a Ruckus was the last to try it 10 years ago.

Atlas Valley, an impressive winner of a May 6 allowance for trainer Carl Nafzger, looks like the strongest opponent for Summerly in the 1 1/16-mile Dogwood.

The following Saturday, June 18, marks the highlight of the post-Derby segment of the spring meet. That is Stephen Foster Super Saturday, featuring the Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap and five other stakes. Nominations for all of those races close Saturday.