05/15/2002 11:00PM

Solvig vs. Quick Tip again in Mint Julep

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Twelve years ago Sunday, trainer Neil Howard turned the tables on his old friend Carl Nafzger by sending out Summer Squall to defeat Unbridled in the Preakness, reversing their one-two finish in the Kentucky Derby.

On Saturday at Churchill Downs, Nafzger will try to give Howard a little taste of his own medicine when he sends out Solvig in the $100,000 Early Times Mint Julep Handicap. Solvig was upset in an opening-day allowance by the Howard-trained Quick Tip, one of nine other fillies and mares entered in the Grade 3 Mint Julep.

"She kicked our rear pretty easy that day," said Nafzger. "We didn't have any excuses other than we hadn't been out since last fall."

Nafzger said he expects Solvig to improve off that April 27 comeback, but he also laughed about any so-called rivalry between him and Howard. "Neil turned the tables on us in the Preakness, but hey, we got the big one that year," he said, referring to the Derby.

The Mint Julep, which was first run 25 years ago and has become the traditional Preakness Day feature here, also drew the 2001 winner, Megans Bluff, who will start as the 118-pound highweight under Craig Perret. Solvig, with 117 pounds, and Quick Tip, 116, are next on the weights list.

While the rematch of Solvig and Quick Tip is a main storyline in the Mint Julep, which is carded as the ninth of 11 Saturday races, Nafzger also will be keenly interested in an earlier race on the card: the fifth, a $59,800 allowance in which Unshaded, who won the 2000 Travers Stakes for Nafzger and owner Jim Tafel, will make his first start in nearly 10 months.

"He's doing great, and we're just glad to have him back," said Nafzger.

Unshaded, who underwent surgery for a tendon lesion after his Travers win, returned with an allowance win last May, but his form tailed off after that. He finished out of the money in three straight graded stakes, then was sidelined again by another minor injury, from which Nafzger said he has fully recovered.

The Preakness simulcast is carded as the last race on the Churchill card, meaning Churchill patrons not only will have their choice of Churchill's separate pools, but also of Pimlico's larger, internationally commingled pools.

* U.S. Jets won a three-horse photo to return $45.60 in the $57,825 feature here Wednesday, but the big story was the show mutuels on the top three finishers. With Bet on Sunshine, the 3-5 favorite, finishing fourth, the show prices were $40.60 on U.S. Jets; $35.60 on runner-up District; and $8.40 on third-finisher Bidis, the 8-5 second choice. From a $75,721 show pool, $63,871 was on Bet on Sunshine.

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