09/30/2004 11:00PM

Stars to come out early at Keeneland

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Easily the most important span of racing in Kentucky this fall takes place next weekend at Keeneland Race Course, where seven graded stakes, most of them likely to produce starters for the Breeders' Cup, will be run.

"FallStars Weekend" is what Keeneland officials call the three-day weekend that opens the 17-day fall meet at the Lexington, Ky., track. Because of the timing of the Breeders' Cup, which this year will be run Oct. 30 at Lone Star Park, the meet is front-loaded with those major stakes.

True to its name, the weekend will not lack for stars. Azeri, the 2002 Horse of the Year, is expected for the Overbrook Spinster Stakes, and other standouts such as Sense of Style, Midas Eyes, and Nothing to Lose also are likely to be in action on opening weekend.

Nominations were released Friday for all the races. Here is a quick rundown:

Darley Alcibiades, Grade 2, $400,000 (Friday): Sense of Style, Miss Matched, and Punch Appeal are the most accomplished 2-year-old fillies likely to run in this 1 1/16-mile race. Keeneland racing secretary Ben Huffman said a medium-sized field appears to be taking shape.

Phoenix Breeders' Cup, Grade 3, $250,000 (Friday): With Bobby Frankel turning down the Vosburgh for star sprinter Midas Eyes, Huffman said he was hopeful Frankel intended to run the colt in the six-furlong Phoenix. Other probables include Champali, Clock Stopper, Gold Storm, and Private Horde.

Lane's End Breeders' Futurity, Grade 1, $500,000 (Saturday): The one-two-three finishers in the Sept. 6 Cradle Stakes - Bellamy Road, Diamond Isle, and Scipion - are expected to wheel back in this 1 1/16-mile race, along with Evil Minister, Straight Line, and at least a few more 2-year-olds. Bob Baffert has nominated Fusaichi Rock Star.

Shadwell Turf Mile, Grade 1, $600,000 (Saturday): Nothing to Lose, winner of the Fourstardave at Saratoga for Frankel, looks like the probable favorite in another race that figures to get a large field. The race will not get Atto Mile winner Soaring Free, who will go straight to the BC Mile, although Huffman said he was hoping for the return of Perfect Soul, the Atto Mile runner-up and 2003 Shadwell Mile winner.

Sycamore Breeders' Cup, Grade 3, $150,000 (Saturday): This 1 1/2-mile turf race is a minor prep at best for the BC Turf. Nominations include Magistretti, Kitten's Joy, and other hot turf runners, but the race is more likely to get horses such as Ballingarry and Rochester.

Overbrook Spinster, Grade 1, $500,000 (Sunday): Azeri is the star attraction in this 1 1/8-mile prep for the BC Distaff. Likely challengers to Azeri include House of Fortune, La Reason, One for Rose, and Mayo on the Side. Society Selection is nominated but appears unlikely to ship here for Allen Jerkens.

WinStar Galaxy, Grade 2, $500,000 (Sunday): Alchemist, Bedanken, Dimitrova, Shaconage, and Stay Forever are the filly-mare turf specialists likely for this 1 3/8-mile race, which is supposed to get a big field.

* Jim Gallagher, the newly appointed executive director of the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority, will address media and various leaders in the racing industry Tuesday morning at a breakfast forum at Keeneland. The event is being co-sponsored by the Kentucky Thoroughbred Media. The forum starts at 8:30 a.m. Eastern.

For those needing to reserve a seat, call (502) 582-4042.