06/08/2010 11:00PM

Race shape boosts Tsunami Bertie

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - A pair of Thursday allowance races for fillies and mares will help get a big weekend of racing jump-started at Churchill Downs, where the first night program of the year is set for Friday and Stephen Foster Day follows on Saturday.

The Thursday allowances go as the fourth and eighth of nine races, with both having drawn short but competitive fields.

The fourth, a $52,000 second-level allowance at five furlongs on the grass, pits a pair of speedy 4-year-olds, Octavia Blue and Songtress, under a scenario that might well set up for a capable stalker such as Tsunami Bertie or Fortune Play.

"It looks like we can break through this condition before too long," said Steve Margolis, trainer of Tsunami Bertie. "Last time out, the filly got hung a little wide, then they spurted away from us. But she's been knocking at the door, tries hard, and I like how things might set up for us in this one."

Only as many as six of the seven entered will start if the race stays on turf, with Bhangaloo Ruby having been entered for the main track only.

The eighth race also is a $52,500 second-level allowance, albeit at seven furlongs on the main track. Cat Onthe Town finished a close second at 9-1 for the same condition at a mile on May 15, and now Calvin Borel takes the reins for trainer Bob Holthus.

Quiet Hope and Tantamount, who dead-heated for third in the same May 15 mile, also return among a field of seven, while Hidden Value goes turf to dirt off a solid April 29 effort for trainer D. Wayne Lukas.

There is a jackpot carryover of $21,056 into the $2 pick six (races 4-9) for Thursday, but none in the $1 super high five (race 9). First post is 12:45 p.m. Eastern.

Meanwhile, there has been great anticipation amid a local marketing blitz for the return of night racing, which will be held on the next four Friday evenings. Last year, three Friday nights averaged about 30,000 in ontrack attendance.

The Saturday program will include five graded stakes, led by the Grade 1, $600,000 Stephen Foster Handicap, the annual highlight of the post-Kentucky Derby segment of the Churchill spring meet. The undercard is led by the Fleur de Lis, which is expected to attract 2009 Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra.