11/18/2005 12:00AM

River City has three horses for the course

America Alive won the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve on the Churchill Downs turf course in May.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - They don't have trouble - not here in River City.

Three of the top contenders in the Sunday feature at Churchill Downs, the Grade 3 River City Handicap, have shown a particular fondness for racing over the Churchill turf, and a victory by any of them would come as little surprise.

America Alive, Honor in War, and G P Fleet are the trio whose previous feats over their home course make them solid threats to visit the Churchill winner's circle yet again.

won the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve on the May 7 Kentucky Derby undercard. Honor in War won the Woodford in 2003 and owns one other victory over the course. And G P Fleet can boast a sparkling record of 4 wins and 3 seconds from 8 career tries on his preferred surface.

"I'd like to run him here nine or 10 months out of the year," said Steve Flint, who trains the 5-year-old G P Fleet for Richard, Bert, and Elaine Klein. "Certain horses like certain tracks. He just happens to like this place. I take him somewhere else, and he's not the same horse. There's really no rhyme or reason for it. If you look at his Beyer numbers, he's 10 lengths better when he runs over this course."

, with Jesus Castanon to ride, will start from post 1 in a field of eight older horses entered in the 28th running of the 1 1/8-mile River City. The 120-pound highweight is Fort Prado, a Chicago shipper who drew Churchill's leading rider, Rafael Bejarano.

Flint said he respects the recent form of Fort Prado (post 4), a gray colt who has won 5 of his past 7 starts. But he warned that a home-field advantage might come into play.

"He's going against those two Grade 1 winners and my horse," said Flint. "He's got to beat the local horses over this strip. This is a brutally tough race, in my opinion."

(post 3) and America Alive (post 6) both enter off allowance victories at Keeneland. Both had been off for varying lengths of time before their respective trainers, Paul McGee and Neil Howard, expressly used those Keeneland races as preps for the River City.

The other horses in the River City, which is carded as the ninth of 10 races Sunday, are Gallo Del Bar, On the Acorn, Shaniko, and Seeking Answers.