11/03/2003 12:00AM

Strength and Honor back home

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - While Najran and Ethan Man were dueling on the lead a month ago in the Phoenix Stakes at Keeneland, another little duel was taking place in the back of the pack.

Beau's Town, the odds-on favorite, was engaged in some hit-and-run action with Great Notion and Strength and Honor, crowding and bumping them for much of the backstretch run.

"He bumped my horse three separate times and came in on us pretty good," said Chuck Simon, trainer of Strength and Honor.

While Najran and Ethan Man finished one-two, none of those back runners made an effectual move. Great Notion wheeled back and ran poorly in the Breeders' Cup Sprint, while Beau's Town exited the Phoenix with an ankle injury that will sideline him until next spring.

Strength and Honor returned to his Churchill Downs base to resume training for his next engagement, which just happens to come Wednesday in one of four allowances on a 10-race program at Churchill. Simon, who has been very active in recent months claiming and buying horses for his burgeoning stable, said he believes Strength and Honor is sitting on a big effort.

"This is where he excels," said Simon. "He's not a good shipper at all, which is one reason we didn't bother taking him to Saratoga this summer. I wish Churchill had a sprint stakes in the fall, but since they don't, we ran him in the Phoenix. Now we're running Wednesday and hoping for one more allowance spot before the end of the meet."

Strength and Honor, with Cornelio Velasquez to ride, is the probable favorite in the eighth race, a $53,600 third-level allow-ance that also is open to horses being risked for a $62,500 claiming tag. Deer Lake and U.S. Jets, who are accomplished in high-end allowance company, are eligible to be claimed.

The seventh race, a $63,400 turf sprint for fillies and mares, drew a full field that includes On the Fritz, winner of the Clark County Stakes at Keeneland in her last start. The ninth, a $65,800 sprint for 3-year-old fillies, attracted several bright talents, including Tina Bull, Holy Bubbette, and Country Romance.

While the weather has been extraordinarily warm here in recent days, a cooling trend is expected to move into the Louisville area by Wednesday or Thursday.