05/10/2006 12:00AM

Three off short rest all look live


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - When Barbaro won the Kentucky Derby off a break of five weeks between races, some thought that might start a trend toward racing horses more sparsely.

That trend has not taken over yet. Three of the eight runners in Friday's $66,000 10th race at Churchill Downs - Sgt. Bert, Dynareign, and Esprit Du Roi - are making their second start of this meet, which began April 29. All three are contenders in the optional claimer at a mile on turf.

comes back quickest of the trio, having raced a week ago on the Kentucky Oaks undercard, finishing ninth in the Grade 3 Aegon Turf Sprint, a five-furlong turf dash. In the rear half of the pack throughout, he hit the wire 5 1/4 lengths behind the victorious Man of Illusion.

Winner of the 5 1/2-furlong Woodford Country Stakes last fall at Keeneland, he has the class to contend, if he can get the distance. He has never raced beyond seven furlongs in his 21-race career.

and Esprit Du Roi, by contrast, are established routers, and both should benefit from a lively pace. Dynareign, second in the John Connally Breeders' Cup at Sam Houston April 9, comes off a runner-up finish to Quest Star at Churchill Downs May 3. Esprit Du Roi returns after winning an optional claiming race on dirt on opening day.

Of the two, Dynareign appears to have the stronger chance. A two-time winner over the Churchill Downs turf course, he is at his best racing on grass. Esprit Du Roi has been more effective on Polytrack and dirt since arriving in America from Chile.

and Terrific Storm loom the biggest threats to those two.

Onthedeanslist, a two-time stakes winner in 2005, ran second to Fort Prado in the Fair Grounds Breeders' Cup this year before running 11th in the 5 1/2-furlong Shakertown Stakes at Keeneland April 14. A need-the-lead front-runner, he seems to prefer racing in routes.

Terrific Storm has more versatility. He has won races by stalking slow fractions and by rallying from behind fast splits. He has also won over the Churchill Downs dirt course - experience that could serve him well if inclement weather results in Friday's race being moved to the main track. As of mid-afternoon Wednesday, the forecast was for a 60 percent chance of showers on Friday.