06/13/2002 12:00AM

Right setup crucial for Parade Leader


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The effort stands out like a sore thumb when compared to the rest of his fair-to-good past performances. On March 3, Parade Leader fairly jumped out of his bridle to win the $500,000 New Orleans Handicap by 5 1/4 lengths, a race that continues to remind trainer Neil Howard of the horse's capabilities.

"I don't think that was an isolated incident," said Howard.

Of the eight horses in Saturday's Stephen Foster Handicap, Parade Leader probably is the most enigmatic, having sandwiched his New Orleans Cap victory between four losses. The apparent inconsistency in his form most likely is due to how this stretch-running 5-year-old tends to be at the mercy of how a race develops, said Howard.

"Is he a Grade 1 horse?" Howard asked rhetorically. "It's hard to say. All I know is that when he's right, he can run really big. He's kind of a one-dimensional horse, so I don't think you can really change anything with him. You have to hope that other factors work in your favor, like a decent pace.

"The good thing about Churchill is that it's very similar to Fair Grounds - it plays fair on a daily basis, and there's the long stretch. Those are plusses to us being in there."

Tenpins risks streak

The Foster starter with easily the longest intact winning streak is Tenpins, who not only has won his last five starts, but would be the owner of a six-race streak if not for a disqualification in the second start of his career last September.

Oddly, Tenpins started his career by losing a maiden race at Great Lakes Downs in Michigan. He then came under the care of trainer Don Winfree, who has never seen the colt finish anything other than first. In his last start, Tenpins, a 4-year-old Smart Strike colt owned by Joseph Vitello, drew off to an impressive win in the Schaefer Handicap on the Preakness undercard at Pimlico. That victory prompted Winfree to point to the Foster.

"About time to try him against somebody," said Winfree.

Robby Albarado has been aboard Tenpins for all six of his races for Winfree, but with Albarado sidelined with a broken finger, Craig Perret has the call Saturday.

Keeping the faith

Dollar Bill was so highly regarded when he last raced at Churchill that he was the 6-1 second choice in the 2001 Kentucky Derby. But he finished a troubled 15th that day, and even in the 13-plus months since then, Dollar Bill has not really given any reason to justify such brilliant optimism.

Nevertheless, trainer Dallas Stewart has maintained faith in the colt.

"We're ready to roll, baby," said Stewart.

Eye on Foster Cap

The Foster will be the primary focus of a one-hour telecast on CBS Sports. The show begins at 5 p.m. Eastern and also will include live coverage of the Dallas Turf Cup from Lone Star and Hollwood Oaks, and delayed footage of the Brooklyn Handicap.

Dave Johnson, Randy Moss, and Leslie Visser will provide on-site commentary.

The show launches the "NTRA Summer Racing Tour," an industry-sponsored series that consists of two subsequent broadcasts, ending with the United Nations Handicap at Monmouth July 6.

Forecast for dry weather

As hard as it rained here Wednesday afternoon, it might have rained even harder Thursday morning. Bob Baffert, with a CBS crew following him around for prerace footage, took shelter under the media-center shed on the Churchill backstretch Thursday morning, just killing time and staying dry while the rain pounded down with a fury.

Fortunately for Churchill, the rain was supposed to end well before the Saturday card. The forecast called for partly cloudy skies and a high temperature in the low 70's.

Penrod appeals suspension

Trainer Steve Penrod has appealed a 30-day suspension handed down this week by the stewards. Penrod was penalized because one of his horses, Unfurled, winner of an April 21 race at Keeneland, tested positive for lidocaine.

Penrod said the positive test stemmed from his use of aloe vera lotion on the horse's cracked heels and that he turned over the bottle of lotion to the stewards.

"I bought it at the grocery store," he said.

Alumni Day thing of the past

The quintupling of the Stephen Foster purse from $150,000 to $750,000 in 1998 coincided with Churchill's unveiling of what was supposed to be an annual event: Kentucky Derby Alumni Day.

But last year, after Alumni Day had been held on Foster Day from 1998 to 2000, Churchill canceled it, citing the considerable expense of paying for Derby-winning owners, trainers, and jockeys to travel to Louisville and stay for a night or two.

Apparently those budgetary concerns remain intact, because there has been nary a word spoken about a revival of Alumni Day.