07/04/2006 11:00PM

Quest Star in for $100K price tag

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Quest Star long ago ran himself out of stair-step allowance conditions, but, having earned more than $900,000, he will get a rare opportunity to compete in fourth-level allowance company when racing resumes Friday at Churchill Downs following a two-day break.

Trainer Neil Howard elected to exercise the $100,000 claiming option when he entered Quest Star in the Friday feature, a $66,000 1 1/16-mile turf race slotted as the 10th of 11 races.

"I don't necessarily think we're risking him," said Howard. "You never know if somebody will step in and claim a horse like him for such a big ticket, but the bottom line is I thought this was the type of spot the horse needs at this point in his career. He's had his share of problems that any horse would have getting to this stage, although there's been nothing drastic. He's honest and always gives 100 percent."

Quest Star, a 7-year-old horse by Broad Brush, will be ridden by Julien Leparoux when he breaks from the outside post in a field that will number no more than six. Seven older horses actually are entered, but one, It's No Joke, has been designated for the main track only.

Quest Star enters off two terrific races at the Churchill spring meet. He won a May 3 allowance in front-running fashion, then finished third, beaten just a length, in the Grade 3 Louisville Handicap on May 29. He figures as a solid favorite in a field that also includes Ay Caramba, trained by Bobby Frankel, and Terrific Storm, who will have Rafael Bejarano riding for trainer Todd Pletcher.

One other interesting entrant is Romney Marsh, who already owns two turf victories at this meet. Those triumphs, both at big mutuels, came in second- and third-level allowance company and in the 39th and 40th starts of the gray gelding's career. Romney Marsh is trained by his breeder-owner, Joe Medley.

Three other allowance races also are on tap for Friday. In the third, Miss Norman makes her second start for new connections when she stretches back out to a mile under first-level conditions. In the fifth, Aubee's Amali and Caroline's Gold, both entered off a victory, figure well in a field of six fillies and mares competing under a third-level restriction. And in the ninth, a third-level route for 3-year-olds and upward, O'Connell's will be trying to duplicate a gritty May 24 triumph under Bejarano, who rides again.

First post Friday is 2:45 p.m. Eastern.