04/26/2004 11:00PM

Sprinters vs. routers in La Troienne

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The middle ground at which Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses equally compete is typically 870 yards, or about four furlongs. For Thoroughbred sprinters and route horses, a fair matchup comes over a long one-turn distance - such as 7 1/2 furlongs, the distance of Thursday's Grade 3, $100,000 La Troienne Stakes at Churchill Downs.

The La Troienne, run at seven furlongs from 1961 to 2003, was extended a sixteenth of a mile this year to draw a larger field, one comprising sprinters and routers. Although just seven horses were entered, the race did attract a combination of sprinters and routers.

Three entrants - Saltwater Runner, Friendly Michelle, and Bohemian Lady - are stakes-winning sprinters. Three others - Pick of the Pack, Ender's Sister, and Fond - are stakes winners around two turns. Only Katestormthebird, a winner of 2 of 4 starts, has not won a stakes.

The hot horse is , a winner of four straight races. After winning her maiden by 10 1/4 lengths at Aqueduct last November, she took the Three Ring Stakes at Calder and the Suncoast and Florida Oaks at Tampa Bay Downs.

Trainer Rusty Arnold had intended to point Ender's Sister, a daughter of A.P. Indy, toward the 1 1/8-mile Black-Eyed Susan Stakes at Pimlico on May 14 but changed his mind after she began training so well at Keeneland and Churchill this spring. Last Saturday, she breezed a bullet half-mile in 46 seconds over a "good" track at Churchill, a fast work designed to prepare her for a one-turn race.

"On her numbers she needs to progress and get better," Arnold said. "Being an A.P. Indy, I think she will."

Arnold, who won the La Troienne last year with Final Round, has given the riding assignment to Pat Day.

Bohemian Lady may prove the one to catch. A winner of 3 of 4 races, she comes off a 6 1/2-length score at Aqueduct in the Grade 3 Cicada, a race that has been won in past years by Jersey Girl and Xtra Heat.

A daughter of Carson City, Bohemian Lady's strength is speed. She pressed a 44.67-second half-mile in the Cicada, ultimately drawing away to an easy victory over Grade 2 Adirondack winner Whoopi Cat. She covered seven furlongs over a good track in 1:23.22, earning an 89 Beyer Speed Figure. Edgar Prado rides for trainer Todd Pletcher.

Other contenders include Saltwater Runner, a two-time stakes winner, and Friendly Michelle, who won a slow Santa Paula Stakes at Santa Anita after finishing third in the Grade 1 Las Virgenes.