06/14/2002 11:00PM

Spain still fast carrying foal


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The richest mare in North American racing history got richer Saturday when Spain drew off to win the $329,400 by 3 1/4 convincing lengths.

Ridden by Jorge Chavez, Spain moved her career bankroll past the $3.5 million mark by rolling past front-running With Ability in the Grade 2 Fleur de Lis, the main attraction on the Stephen Foster Super Saturday undercard at Churchill Downs.

The race was the first for Spain since she was successfully bred to Storm Cat last month. Trainer D. Wayne Lukas said before the Fleur de Lis that Spain, a 5-year-old owned by The Thoroughbred Corp., was "thriving" on being in foal, a declaration that was clearly demonstrated by one of the most powerful performances of her 34-race career.

Spain saved ground while tracking With Ability for most of the 1 1/8-mile Fleur de Lis, then angled out for the stretch drive. "I took my time, then pulled out," said Chavez. Spain quickly kicked clear, finishing in 1:49.64 and returning $9.40 as second choice in a field of six.

With Ability held second by a neck over Dancethruthedawn, who made a mild bid in upper stretch before flattening out under Jerry Bailey as the even-money favorite.

The victory was the third in a Churchill graded stakes for Spain. The others were the 2000 Breeders' Cup Distaff and the May 3 Louisville BC, a race that catapulted her past Serena's Song as the all-time career earnings leader among fillies and mares.

"She obviously likes this track," said Lukas.

Asked whether there is any possibility that Spain could run for a third time in the BC Distaff, which will be run Oct. 26 at Arlington, Lukas said: "I've talked to some of the most brilliant minds in the game, and they said it's possible she could run then. She'll be five-plus months pregnant, so it's not out of the realm. But I don't really know, and it's not going to be my decision anyway."

Danthebluegrassman proves his worth

Danthebluegrassman, the colt who sparked controversy when he was entered in, then scratched from, the May 4 Kentucky Derby, gave a measure of vindication to owner Mike Pegram and trainer Bob Baffert by racing to victory in the $109,500 Northern Dancer Stakes.

Danthebluegrassman, ridden by Bailey, waited just off the early pace contested by Shah Jehan and Sky Terrace before pulling away to win by 2 1/2 lengths over Stephentown, the 6-5 favorite. Sky Terrace finished another three-quarters of a length back in a field of seven 3-year-olds.

The winner returned $11 after finishing a mile in 1:35.04.

Danthebluegrassman, who was making his first start since the April 6 Santa Anita Derby, was an 11th-hour entry in the Derby, which bumped Windward Passage from the field. On Derby morning, Danthebluegrassman was scratched with what was eventually diagnosed as a slightly pulled muscle.

"I guess now you can see why we entered him in the Derby," said Pegram.

Baffert said Danthebluegrassman "is a really good horse, but he's always had these little ailments." The $250,000 Iowa Derby on July 5 might be the next race for the Pioneering colt, he added.

Bailey guides Distant Valley in Regret

Bailey won his third stakes of the afternoon when he gave a textbook ride on Distant Valley in the final race of the card, the Grade 3, $169,050 Regret Stakes for 3-year-old turf fillies.

Distant Valley, an English-bred filly owned by Gary Tanaka and trained by Niall O'Callaghan, finished three lengths ahead of front-running Peace River Lady in a field of nine. Styleistick, the 9-5 favorite, was another length back in third.

The start was just the second in the U.S. for Distant Valley, who finished 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.71 over a firm turf. She returned $9.80 as third choice.

* Morluc ($3.60) set a turf-course record for five furlongs when edging away from Knave to win a $55,150 allowance race in 55.73 seconds. Morluc, a 6-year-old horse by Housebuster, has won 11 of 36 starts and more than $963,000 for owner Mike Cloonan and trainer Randy Morse.

* Apprentice rider Kris Prather was taken to nearby Caritas Medical Center after her mount in the fifth race, Count Rutledge, kicked her after she dismounted. Prather was initially diagnosed with potential injuries to her left arm, pelvis, and thigh.

Prather, who has suffered several injuries since starting her career nearly two years ago, had recently returned to Kentucky after having ridden at several other tracks this year.

* Engraved 2002 Kentucky Derby trophies were presented after the sixth race to Baffert and Charles Nuckols Jr., the trainer and breeder, respectively, of victorious War Emblem.