06/05/2007 12:00AM

'Save Big' favored in allowance

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - There are seemingly innumerable ways to advertise, and John Menard Jr., who in 1962 founded the wildly successful Midwest home-improvement chain that still carries his name, found another way in horse racing.

Radio and television commercials for Menards end with the well-known jingle, "Save Big Money at Menards!" And just in case any horse racing fans haven't heard the spots, Menard took out the name Save Big Money when going into partnership with Steve and Tomisue Hilbert on one of the Hilberts' homebreds, a Storm Cat colt who now is 4.

Save Big Money hasn't quite matched the profitability of the business from which his name is derived - Menards has more than 200 stores in 11 states - but he nonetheless is a useful sort, having earned more than $85,000 from 12 career starts.

Moreover, the colt has seemed to progress with time, and his two-back victory at Keeneland for a first-level allowance restriction seemed to portend more success. A chance at proving as much comes Thursday, when the colt starts from post 1 among a field of seven entered in the feature race at Churchill Downs, a $52,500, second-level allowance at 1 1/8 miles on the main track.

Save Big Money, with Robby Albarado riding for trainer Neil Howard, finished third in his lone start since his April 15 triumph on the Keeneland Polytrack. The colt earned a lifetime-high 91 Beyer Speed Figure in that last outing, and a repeat performance would make him one of the horses to beat in this spot.

Other legitimate contenders in the eighth of nine Thursday races include Special Event, a stakes-placed 5-year-old returning from a layoff of nearly six months, and Don't Fret, a first-level allowance winner at 12-1 on the May 4 Kentucky Oaks undercard in his last. The balance of the field is Great Point, Flashstorm, Smokeyjonessutton, and Absolut Burn.

* There will be no stakes run this weekend at Churchill. The top attraction Saturday is the simulcast of the Belmont Stakes, while a sidelight to a 10-race Sunday program will be a nostalgia theme featuring giveaways of 1957 mint julep glass replicas to the first 3,000 fans.

The next day at Churchill for major stakes action is June 16, when six graded stakes, led by the Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap, will be run.