05/31/2006 11:00PM

Senor Swinger going for 3-peat

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Senor Swinger, 6, has won 10 races and earned more than $900,000.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - A horse winning three consecutive runnings of a stakes is a rarity, but Saturday it could happen at Churchill Downs for the second time in less than a week.

On Monday, Silverfoot won the Louisville Handicap for the third year in a row. Senor Swinger will attempt to match that accomplishment Saturday by winning his third straight running of the , a 1 1/16-mile turf race

His task will be difficult. The Opening Verse, which is part of a card at Churchill Downs that includes the Aristides Breeders' Cup Handicap, Dogwood Breeders' Cup, and Texas Glitter Handicap, has come up strong for a $100,000 race. Graded winners Purim and Rush Bay are in the field, as are some respectable allowance horses such as Free Thinking, Everything to Gain, and On the Acorn.

Not that Senor Swinger isn't battle-tested. A 10-time winner with a bankroll in excess of $940,000, he has faced many of the nation's best turf horses. Last year, he unsuccessfully chased Kitten's Joy and Leroidesanimaux in turf races, and in 2006 he has raced behind the likes of Milk It Mick and Aragon, both Grade 1 winners.

Whether Senor Swinger has lost a step at 6 is debatable. He continues to run quality Beyer Speed Figures, regularly posting Beyers in the upper 90's and low 100's, but he has won only twice in nine starts in 2005-06. One of those wins came in last year's Opening Verse Handicap, the other in the Thunder Ridge Handicap at Santa Anita on Feb. 8.

In two starts since winning the Thunder Ridge, he has finished 11th in the Grade 1 Frank Kilroe Mile at Santa Anita and sixth in the Inglewood Handicap at Hollywood Park on April 29. Brice Blanc rides for trainer Bob Baffert.

Despite his accomplishments over the local course, Senor Swinger is not assured of favoritism. Purim and Rush Bay both come off fast victories in which they defeated horses who won their next start.

Purim, winner of the Grade 3 Razorback earlier this year, trounced restricted stakes horses at Arlington on May 7, winning the Avers Wexler Illinois Owners Stakes over No Tolerance. No Tolerance came back to win the Mister Gus Stakes at Arlington.

Rush Bay, who won the Grade 3 Jefferson Cup at Churchill in 2005, comes off a career-best 101 Beyer, which he earned for narrowly outfinishing Ascertain in a third-level allowance on the Kentucky Derby undercard. Ascertain scored in a comparable allowance at Churchill on May 27.