06/15/2001 11:00PM

Saudi Poetry pulls off Fleur de Lis upset


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Not too many horseplayers believed.

Saudi Poetry, an upset winner of the Louisville Breeders' Cup in her last start, wheeled right back to defeat five of the fillies and mares she beat in that race by capturing the $333,000 Fleur de Lis Handicap at 6-1 Saturday at Churchill Downs.

"Everyone was surprised, but not me," said Victor Espinoza, who rode Saudi Poetry to her 1 1/4-length victory for The Thoroughbred Corp. and trainer Bob Baffert.

Saudi Poetry paid $14.40 as fourth choice in a field of eight. Always in a comfortable position tracking Maltese Superb and Asher to the final turn of the 1 1/8-mile race, Saudi Poetry drew clear in the upper stretch to prove clearly best. She finished in 1:49.27 over a fast track.

Secret Status, the 9-5 favorite, rallied belatedly to finish second, overtaking Asher by a neck. It was another 1 1/4 lengths back to Royal Fair in fourth.

The Grade 3 Fleur de Lis, the richest co-feature on the Stephen Foster undercard, was particularly gratifying for Espinoza, who also rode Saudi Poetry, a 4-year-old Storm Cat filly, in the Louisville BC. "I've been waiting all day long for these races, and I was really focused," he said. "The trip really set up good for me. It was what I wanted."

Saudi Poetry earned $206,460, bringing her total to nearly $580,000. She has won five of 14 overall, with the restricted Torrey Pines at Del Mar last summer her only stakes win before this meet at Churchill.

For Secret Status, the defeat was her second since she returned from a lengthy layoff to win an April allowance sprint at Keeneland, although The Fleur de Lis was an improvement over her sixth-place finish in the Louisville BC.

Regret: Casual Feat holds on

At some point, either La Vida Loca, the 6-5 favorite, or Bold Answer, the 2-1 second choice, were supposed to roar past Casual Feat, the longshot front-runner in the $167,250 Regret Stakes.

It never happened.

Casual Feat, a Cozzene filly fresh off her maiden victory, held off Amaretta to win the Grade 3 Regret by a length while La Vida Loca struggled home third and Bold Answer fourth in a field of eight 3-year-old fillies. Casual Feat, ridden by Larry Melancon, paid $59.40 after finishing 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.75 over a firm turf.

Casual Feat is owned by her co-breeder, T. S. Hinkle, and trained by veteran Steve Penrod. After losing her first four starts by a total of 81 lengths, she broke her maiden at Churchill May 23 at 14-1.

Northern Dancer: Compendium upsets

Compendium stunned nine other 3-year-olds by edging away to win the $100,000 Northern Dancer Handicap, first of the four stakes run Saturday.

Compendium, ridden by Donnie Meche, was always prominent in the one-mile race, pulling away from Global Gait before holding off Meetyouathebrig, the 3-2 favorite, by

1 3/4 lengths. Horrible Evening was third, another four lengths behind.

Compendium, a Florida-bred by Notebook, returned $50 after finishing in 1:34.78. The colt is owned by the Ackerley Brothers Farm.

"This horse seems to do better when he runs where he's stabled," said assistant Scott Blasi, who oversees trainer Steve Asmussen's Churchill string.

o A half-hour after the Northern Dancer, Meche and Blasi got into a heated argument over the way Meche rode Dreams Gallore in the Fleur de Lis. The two men nearly came to blows in the paddock runway before being separated.

o The engraved 2001 Kentucky Derby trophies were presented between races Saturday to the connections of Monarchos: breeder Jim Squires, owner John Oxley, trainer John T. Ward Jr., and, in absentia, jockey Jorge Chavez.