10/30/2003 1:00AM

In Rome must put trouble behind her


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Trainer David Vance has been using Pat Day aboard his horses for nearly a quarter of a century, but he cannot recall a more troubled trip for Day than the one the Hall of Fame jockey encountered aboard In Rome in the Oct. 3 Alcibiades Stakes at Keeneland.

"It was unreal," said Vance, who trains In Rome for Carl Pollard, chairman of the Churchill Downs board. "Pat was standing in the irons pretty much all the way through the first turn, at least an eighth of a mile. He was getting pressure from the outside and didn't really have a chance to try to go past the filly on the inside. It really was ridiculous. After that, Pat said the filly started gurgling a little and didn't have any more run, so he just kind of loped her around there the rest of the way."

The unfortunate result was a 24 1/4-length drubbing for In Rome, who had won her two previous races, including the $100,000 Bassinet Stakes at River Downs. Saturday, when the filly will make her first start since the Alcibiades, Vance and Day will be seeking a major reversal when In Rome faces nine other 2-year-old fillies in the 35th running of the $100,000 Pocahontas Stakes at Churchill.

"She's had two nice works since then, trained real well," said Vance. "Depending on how she does Saturday, we could run her back in the Golden Rod" on closing day, Nov. 29. "Either way, she'll get some time off after this meet, because I think she's got a shot to do some real good things next year."

In Rome is one of a handful of logical contenders in a well-matched renewal of the Pocahontas, which is run at one mile out of the long backstretch chute.

The other main players are Sweet Jo Jo, winner of the Fisher Debutante at Ellis Park in August for trainer Steve Asmussen; Turn to Lass, undefeated in two Chicago races for Gene Brajczewski; Marina de Chavon, winner of the Brave Raj at Calder in September; Sister Star, a 10 3/4-length maiden winner at Turfway Park for Ken McPeek; and Stellar Jayne, whose trainer, D. Wayne Lukas, has won two previous runnings (1988, 1994) of the Pocahontas.

The rest of the field is Storming Way, Quick Start, Request Denied, and Hot Mail.

The Pocahontas is the ninth of 10 races on a card that also includes four allowance races. First post is 12:40 p.m. Eastern.