04/22/2002 11:00PM

Sweetest Thing vs. Tweedside

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - The days are dwindling, but not the talent. The penultimate program of the 16-day Keeneland spring meet includes a tough running of the $100,000 Bewitch Stakes, and also two allowance races that drew a couple of horses who were prominent early in the 2001 Kentucky Derby campaign.

The 41st running of the Grade 3 Bewitch, a 1 1/2-mile grass race for fillies and mares, could have Sweetest Thing as a slight favorite, even though she is winless in her last five starts.

In her last start, the Grade 2 Orchid at Gulfstream, Sweetest Thing closed strongly to finish a neck behind the victorious Julie Jalouse. Trained by Roger Attfield, Sweetest Thing has four wins and three seconds in 10 lifetime starts, and earnings of nearly $630,000.

Several others in the field of nine have the credentials to keep Sweetest Thing's losing streak intact. Foremost among them is Tweedside, a 4-year-old who last summer upset the Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks. In her only start this year, she won an optional claiming race on the turf at Gulfstream.

"Her last win at Gulfstream was encouraging," said trainer Todd Pletcher. "Obviously we're hoping she'll become a top grass filly."

Other notables are Lady Upstage, a recent allowance winner here for trainer Christophe Clement and jockey Jerry Bailey, and Built to Last, a California invader trained by Neil Drysdale. The rest of the field is Lapuma, Temis, Peace Keeping, True Ruby, and Sunstone.

In addition to the Bewitch, Hero's Tribute and Holiday Thunder - who just a few months before the 2001 Kentucky Derby were more highly regarded than their stablemate, eventual Derby winner Monarchos - both are scheduled to run here Thursday.

Hero's Tribute last raced in October in the Perryville here, in which he finished a tired fifth after a sluggish start. His five rivals in the seventh race, a $67,000 allowance, include Alannan, who won the Common-wealth Breeders' Cup and Churchill Downs Handicap last spring.

Holiday Thunder has had one race this year at Gulfstream. He is entered in the ninth race, a $54,000 allowance.

Both colts are owned by John Oxley and trained by John T. Ward Jr. Jorge Chavez, who rode Monarchos, will ride both.

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