11/07/2001 1:00AM

Rock Slide builds momentum

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Ever so briefly, trainer Neil Howard thought he might have a 2001 Kentucky Derby horse in Rock Slide. But after Rock Slide was slow to return from a minor injury suffered in August of his 2-year-old year, Howard determined that he was a horse for the future, the type who just wasn't going to develop early in his career.

"It wasn't that he never panned out," said Howard. "He's a big horse and he needed time to grow into himself."

In his last start, Rock Slide, owned by a partnership led by Will Farish, ran the most impressive race of his career when dominating an entry-level allowance race Oct. 7 at Keeneland.

"That was the race that resembled what we've always thought of him," said Howard. "I think his growing pains might be behind him now."

On Friday at Churchill Downs, Rock Slide likely will be favored to go through his next allowance condition when he faces eight rivals in the ninth-race feature, a $46,800 race at 1 1/16 miles. Pat Day will be aboard, as he was in the Keeneland win.

Law Review, a sharp winner at Keeneland off a layoff for Bernie Flint, and Saint Damien, a stakes-seasoned 3-year-old trained by Ken McPeek, figure as the main challengers in a tough race.

The feature is preceded by an entry-level allowance race scheduled for the infrequently run distance of 1 1/4 miles. Weston Field looks like a deserving favorite in a field of six.

One other allowance (race 7) is one of the best betting events of the card. Ten 2-year-olds will go six furlongs in what shapes up as a well-balanced field.

Filly sets turf record

Ever With You, a 3-year-old With Approval filly owned and trained by Diane Perkins, set a turf-course record for 1 1/16 miles when she led all the way to win the fifth race Wednesday in 1:40.82.

"I didn't think she had it in her," said Perkins. "She's been a nervous filly her whole life and has flipped her palate a few times before. You just have to let her think she's doing it all herself."

A day for chalkplayers

Favorites won each of the four races to open the Wednesday card, leading to easily the lowest pick four payoff of the meet, $47.90 for a $1 wager.

Three winners paid $4.20, and one paid $4.80. All four were higher odds during their races, but by the time they crossed the finish line and late money had been registered, their prices had dropped.

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