10/12/2004 12:00AM

Six fillies confirmed for QEII

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Hard Buck (6) will run in the Canadian International or Knickerbocker, then head overseas.

LEXINGTON, Ky. - Although Keeneland racing officials say more starters probably are forthcoming, only six 3-year-old fillies had been confirmed as of Tuesday afternoon for the fourth and last Grade 1 race of the fall meet, the $500,000 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup.

With known jockey assignments, this is the prospective lineup for the QE II, an invitational that will be run for the 21st time Saturday: Barancella, no rider; Island Sand, Pat Day; Mambo Slew, Edgar Prado; Phantom Wind, Jerry Bailey; River Belle, John Velazquez; and Ticker Tape, Kent Desormeaux.

Invitations to the 1 1/8-mile turf race also have been extended to at least two other fillies listed as possible starters: Bay Tree and Spotlight.

Notable absentees from the prospective lineup are Grey Lilas, whom trainer Andre Fabre declined to send from France, and Lucifer's Stone, the New York-based filly recently sidelined by an ankle chip.

Perhaps the most well-connected starter in the QEII is Phantom Wind. Based in England with trainer John Gosden for owner-breeder Juddmonte Farms, Phantom Wind is by Storm Cat out of Ryafan, winner of the 1997 QEII.

The QEII occasionally produces a starter for the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf, even though its timing - two weeks out - is not necessarily ideal as a prep. Keeneland has been reluctant to put the QEII on its opening weekend, partly because the track needs a marquee race for the meet's second weekend.

The meet is already front-loaded with major stakes because of the timing to the Breeders' Cup.

Live television coverage of the QEII will start at 4 p.m. Eastern on ESPN2.

Castellano building on last year's success

Keeneland harbors fond memories for jockey Javier Castellano, who will ride Eurosilver in the Perryville Stakes on Thursday. The 26-year-old Venezuelan enjoyed a sensational opening weekend at the 2003 fall meet, winning the Phoenix Breeders' Cup aboard Najran and the Breeders' Futurity on Eurosilver. Those victories came a weekend after Castellano won the Vosburgh at Belmont Park with Ghostzapper.

In the year that has passed, Castellano's star has continued to rise, and he returns to Keeneland on a pace to once again surpass what he accomplished the previous year. His mounts earned $6 million in 2001, $8.8 million in 2002, and $9.6 million last year; his 2004 mount earnings after Monday, when he rode three winners at Belmont Park, were more than $9.2 million.

Castellano came to the United States in 1997 and began riding at Calder in south Florida before moving to New York in January 2001. He is the older brother of jockey Abel Castellano Jr., a prominent rider in the Mid-Atlantic region. Their father was a jockey in Venezuela.

More travel on the agenda for Hard Buck

Hard Buck, the Brazilian-bred who has just one win but more than $840,000 in earnings this year, will run next in the Oct. 24 Canadian International at Woodbine or Oct. 30 Knickerbocker Handicap at Aqueduct before making yet another overseas trip, said trainer Ken McPeek.

Hard Buck worked an easy half-mile Tuesday in 51.60 seconds over the Churchill Downs dirt. A 5-year-old marathon turf specialist owned by Team Victory, Hard Buck made most of his 2004 bankroll by running second in the $2 million Dubai Sheema Classic in March and second in his latest start, the King George Stakes at Ascot on July 24.

"He came back from England a little road-weary," said McPeek. "He lost a bit of weight, so we sent him out to Longfield Farm for a little time. He'll have one race before we send him either to Hong Kong or Japan."