05/08/2003 11:00PM

Quest Star heads stakes-like allowance field


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - There are no stakes at Churchill Downs on Sundays in the spring, but labels can fool you. The feature race here Sunday attracted a field of stakes-caliber turf horses, no doubt lured at least in part by the $73,400 purse.

Quest Star, winner of the Grade 2 Pan American Handicap two starts back, is one of several highly accomplished runners in the ninth of 10 races, a 1 1/8-mile grass race.

Trained by Elliott Walden, Quest Star faded to eighth as the second choice in his most recent start, the 1 1/2-mile Elkhorn Stakes at Keeneland, but the turn-back in distance could prove very much to his liking.

Probably the most capable of the seven challengers to Quest Star are Red Mountain, a late-running turf specialist with Pat Day named, or Roxinho, a former Brazilian champion who may have needed his last race, at Keeneland.

Walden also has a keen interest in the seventh race of the day, a $43,500 entry-level allowance. Walden will saddle Coincide, a

4-year-old half-brother to Kentucky Derby winner Funny Cide. Coincide, by Cozzene, and Funny Cide, by Distorted Humor, are both out of the deceased mare Belle's Good Cide.

Sunday's sixth race also is an interesting one, with 2002 Black Eyed Susan Stakes winner Chamrousse likely to be favored in a field of six fillies and mares.

The next Churchill stakes comes Saturday, when the $100,000 Dogwood Stakes is run at 1 1/16 miles. My Trusty Cat, who skipped the Kentucky Oaks, appears to be the early favorite for the Grade 3 race.

Sellers, Frankel top standings

Nine days into the spring meet, a jockey other than Jerry Bailey has hit the top of the Churchill standings.

Through Thursday, Shane Sellers, a three-time leading rider here, had ridden nine winners, one more than Bailey, who led the standings after having a hot hand Derby week, and Churchill newcomer Cornelio Velasquez. Day and Robby Albarado were next in line with seven wins each.

Atop the trainer standings is Bobby Frankel, whose six Derby week victories continued to be enough for him to hold a temporary lead.

Red Dog's dandy day

After winning back-to-back races midway through the Thursday card, veteran trainer Gary "Red Dog" Hartlage said he almost felt like he owned the winner's circle.

"It's been at least a couple of years since I did that," said Hartlage, a Shively, Ky., resident who has a sizable local following.

By winning the fourth race with Southern Stepper ($6.80) and the fifth with Crazyboutamercury ($10.20), Hartlage said he "kept a lot of people happy. Darn right it feels good."

Derby Day winners lock on Aristides

A pair of allowance winners on the Kentucky Derby undercard are being pointed for the $100,000 Aristides Handicap here June 21.

Chuck Simon, trainer of Strength and Honor, and Rob O'Connor, trainer of Trion Georgia, both said they would like to get a prep into their horse before the Grade 3 Aristides. And Churchill stakes coordinator Mark Hoard said an allowance race will be scheduled for later this month or early June to serve that purpose.

Strength and Honor, owned by Kim Schipke, has been unbeaten in three starts since Simon assumed his training last year. A 4-year-old colt by Carson City, Strength and Honor was ridden out in winning the Derby Day opener by three lengths.

o After a one-year hiatus, Churchill Downs is sponsoring its annual horsemen's golf tournament. The tournament will be held May 27 at the new Cardinal Club in Shelby County. Cost per person is $100 and it includes lunch, refreshments, and prizes. The field will be restricted to 144 players. For more information, call Karen Zega at (502) 638-3810.