10/13/2003 11:00PM

Tenpins avoids lure of Cup

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Tenpins never really had much of a chance to make the Breeders' Cup Classic at Arlington Park last fall. The Michigan-bred star suffered a minor lung infection several weeks before the race and "we didn't want to make a wrong decision," said his trainer, Don Winfree.

But this fall, with Tenpins in good form and excellent health, the opportunity seemed ripe to try the $4 million Classic at Santa Anita, especially with the defections of such stars as Mineshaft, Candy Ride, and Empire Maker.

But owner Joe Vitello, a Detroit businessman with investments in trucking and warehousing, decided the risk-versus-reward ratio still was too high, so Tenpins will not try the Classic. He is now scheduled to make his next two starts in the Fayette Stakes on Oct. 25 at Keeneland and then the Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs Nov. 28

Understandably, Winfree is disappointed. "There are a lot worse things than going into the Fayette and Clark with a loaded gun," he said. "I thought we might've had a chance in the Breeders' Cup, but I very much respect the owner's decision. It's his horse, his money - and he thought the $120,000 entry fee and all the other expenses outweighed what kind of chance we had."

Now 5, Tenpins finished second in his latest start, behind one of the Classic favorites, Perfect Drift, in the Sept. 28 Hawthorne Gold Cup. The horse has won 9 of 14 starts and $1,088,689.

Last year, Tenpins won the Fayette, then ran fourth in the Clark. Craig Perret substituted for regular rider Robby Albarado in the Fayette, but Winfree said Albarado's agent, Lenny Pike Jr., has given him a call for the $150,000 Fayette this year. The Grade 3 Fayette is on the same day as the Breeders' Cup.

Winfree said Tenpins has been training very well, citing a six-furlong breeze Sunday in 1:12.80 at Churchill. And although Winfree is excited about the prospect of repeating in Keeneland's top fall race for older dirt horses, he also has some wistful feelings about missing the Classic.

"For the last 20 years, I'd have been tickled to have an even-money shot in the Fayette," he said.

"Good cowboys don't cry," Winfree added. "They just bleed."

Douglas, Lanerie to Churchill next

Rene Douglas and Corey Lanerie, both of whom began riding at Keeneland after the long Arlington Park meet ended, also will ride at the Churchill fall meet, which runs from Oct. 26 to Nov. 29.

But Frank Lovato Jr., who has ridden sparingly at Keeneland since leaving Arlington, is going home to Valley Stream, N.Y., for several weeks before heading south to ride at the Fair Grounds meet, which starts Nov. 27.

Lovato's agent, Britt McGehee, said Lovato is returning home in part to build more Equicizers, a mechanical horse with a spring-loaded neck that many jockeys use to hone their skills. In the last 15 years or so, Lovato, 40, has sold more than 400 Equicizers through his Wooden Horse Corp.

Romans gearing up for Churchill

As the Wednesday card marks the halfway point of the 17-day Keeneland fall meet, quite a few Kentucky horsemen already are looking forward to Churchill - and surely few of them are as eager as Dale Romans, whose stable dominated the Churchill spring meet.

"We ought to be set up pretty well for Churchill," said Romans.

Romans's barn has run at Gulfstream in the winter, Keeneland and Churchill in the spring, and Saratoga in the summer. "Some of my horses have had a long year," he said. "But we're going to make it through Churchill pretty well, I hope. We can take our break after that."

At least two of the Romans's top horses will run early at Churchill: Dubai Sheikh in the opening-day Ack Ack, and Blushing Indian in the Nov. 2 Iroquois.

Churchill chairman has new runner

Carl Pollard, the Churchill Downs Inc. chairman who won the BC Juvenile Fillies three years ago with longshot Caressing, has another stakes-caliber 2-year-old filly with In Rome, the winner of the Aug. 30 Bassinet Stakes at River Downs.

In Rome encountered considerable traffic trouble on the first turn before fading to sixth in her last race, the Alcibiades at Keeneland on Oct. 3. Pollard said In Rome, trained by David Vance, could make her next start at Churchill in the Nov. 1 Pocahontas.