06/06/2004 11:00PM

Southern Image the Foster heavy


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Southern Image will carry 122 pounds Saturday as the highweight in the $750,000 Stephen Foster Handicap, the Grade 1 race that serves as the focal point of easily the most important day of the post-Kentucky Derby segment of the annual spring meet at Churchill Downs.

Southern Image, one of a handful of California-based horses expected to arrive here Tuesday, will carry one more pound than Peace Rules in the 1 1/8-mile Foster 'Cap. Peace Rules also is expected no later than Tuesday from New York.

Southern Image, trained by Mike Machowsky, has won 6 of 7 starts to become one of the premier handicap runners in North America. In his last start, Southern Image drew off to a convincing score in the Grade 1 Pimlico Special on May 14.

Peace Rules, trained by Bobby Frankel, also has been extremely productive this year, having won the Grade 1 Oaklawn Handicap in his latest start in April.

Meanwhile, trainer Neil Howard is leaning toward running Midway Road here Saturday after vacillating between the Foster and Brooklyn Handicap at Belmont the same day. Midway Road, along with Perfect Drift, figures as the third or fourth wagering choice.

With weights, these are the probable starters for the Foster: Southern Image, 122; Peace Rules, 121; Perfect Drift, 119; Olmodavor, 118; Midway Road, 116; Sir Cherokee, 113; and Colonial Colony, 111. Entries are to be drawn Wednesday.

The Foster is one of six stakes worth a total of more than $1.85 million here Saturday. The race will televised live on ESPN as the leadoff event in the network's new "NTRA Super Saturday" series.

Lead Story retired with injury

Owner A. Steven Miles and trainer Carl Nafzger got some really bad news Sunday morning when their star mare, Lead Story, was found to have a fractured sesamoid that has been deemed serious enough to end her career.

Lead Story, who has demonstrated a particular fondness for Churchill and would have been one of the favorites Saturday in the $400,000 Fleur de Lis Handicap, came out of her Saturday workout favoring her left front ankle. Surgery will not be required.

Lead Story, who retires with eight wins and $842,031 in earnings, had won three straight graded stakes at Churchill: the Churchill Distaff and Falls City last fall, and the Louisville Breeders' Cup on April 30.

"She went to a different level," said Ian Wilkes, Nafzger's longtime assistant. "She was more like a Grade 1 filly. The way she was doing, I didn't care who was coming" for the Grade 2 Fleur de Lis.

With Lead Story out, Nafzger is thinking about running Mayo on the Side in her place in the Grade 2 Fleur de Lis. Mayo on the Side, who defeated Azeri in her last start, the Grade 1 Humana Distaff on Kentucky Derby Day, tentatively had been scheduled to run in the June 19 Ogden Phipps at Belmont.

The list of other likely starters for the 1 1/8-mile Fleur de Lis is headed by Adoration, upset winner of the Breeders' Cup Distaff last fall. Besides Adoration, who has been assigned highweight of 122 pounds, and Mayo on the Side (116), the field also could include Bare Necessities (120), Cat Fighter (115), Roar Emotion (115), Yell (115), Angela's Love (113), Indy Groove (110), and La Reason (110).

Four more stakes on card

Besides the Foster and Fleur de Lis, four other stakes are set for Saturday. Here are the prospective lineups for each:

* The $200,000 Jefferson Cup: Capo, Cool Conductor, Indian War Dance, Kitten's Joy, Lods, Mighty Military, More Bourb, Possess, Prince Arch, Radiant Cat, Terroplane.

* The $200,000 Regret: Baxter Hall, Boasting, Gingham and Lace, Jinny's Gold, Last Waltz, Minge Cove, Shadow Cast, Sister Star, Susan's Angel, Thornhill, Western Ransom.

* The $200,000 Northern Dancer: Ascertain, Breakaway, Capitano, Courageous Act, Chippewa Trail, Dashboard Drummer, Ecclesiastic, Gran Prospect, Grande's Grandslam, J Town, Mr. Mabee, Shaniko, Suave, Two Down Automatic.

* The $100,000 Opening Verse: Classic Par, Contractor, Everything to Gain, Gretchen's Star, Grey Beard, Majestic Thief, Mystery Giver, Senor Swinger, Restage.

Servis to accept Derby trophy

Trainer John Servis is scheduled to be here Saturday to be presented with the engraved Kentucky Derby trophy for the victory by Smarty Jones in the 130th Derby. Servis also will participate in an autograph session that afternoon and will attend the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation's annual Out to Pasture Party that evening.

Churchill also has invited Roy and Patricia Chapman to be here Saturday, and the Chapmans are expected to make the trip despite the fact that Roy Chapman suffers from emphysema.The engraved trophy presentation has been part of Foster Day since 1998, when Churchill hosted its first Alumni Day for Derby-winning connections. Alumni Day was discontinued after three years because of cost considerations but the engraved trophy presentation has remained.

Sellers to be in Texas with Asmussen

Veteran jockey Shane Sellers will miss Foster Day to ride instead at Lone Star Park in Texas, where he was the star of the May 31 Lone Star Million program when riding four stakes winners for trainer Steve Asmussen.

Sellers and Asmussen will team up again Saturday in both the colt and filly division of the TTA Sales Futurity. Both divisions are worth $150,000.

* Like virtually every other racetrack or wagering outlet across the United States, Churchill Downs had a huge contingent of fans here Saturday to root for Smarty Jones in the colt's bid for the Triple Crown. Attendance including the nearby Trackside simulcast annex was 14,219.

* May Gator, coaxed off the early pace by Pat Day, rallied to win the Sunday feature, a $64,300 allowance for fillies and mares on the turf. May Gator, trained by Steve Flint, returned $11.60 with her seventh career victory.

* Agent Ron Anderson has lined up the following mounts for Hall of Fame jockey Jerry Bailey on Foster Day: Peace Rules in the Foster, Roar Emotion in the Fleur de Lis, Kitten's Joy in the Jefferson Cup, Boasting in the Regret, and Ecclesiastic in the Northern Dancer.

* Churchill has announced that the Grammy-winning band Hootie and the Blowfish will perform in the infield June 19 at the annual Summer Music Celebration. The 90-minute Hootie and the Blowfish concert begins at 6 p.m. Eastern and will follow those by several other bands throughout the afternoon. Tickets are $10 in advance.