11/27/2002 12:00AM

Time to think springtime


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Simply because it is the traditional closing day highlight at every Churchill Downs fall meet, the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes leaves a durable final impression. Perhaps more importantly, it also tends to be an excellent race that gets many racing fans to begin looking toward the Kentucky Derby the following May.

Once again, the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club should carry implications toward the Derby when it is run for the 76th time Saturday, closing day of the

30-day fall meet. Whether those implications are major or minor will not be determined for months, but at the very least, initial appearances suggest the 1 1/16-mile race will attract some very promising 2-year-olds who could become major Derby prospects.

Soto and Champali, both unbeaten, are two of at least 10 2-year-olds likely to run Saturday in the $200,000 KJC. The rest of the prospective field includes three horses trained by Ken McPeek - Collateral Damage, Ten Cents a Shine, and White Cat - and another five or six starters.

The filly counterpart in Saturday's twin 2-year-old stakes, the $200,000 Golden Rod, is shaping up as a potential showcase for My Boston Gal, the Carl Nafzger-trained filly who has been sensational in winning her only two starts.

"I think she's the real deal," said Calvin Borel, who rode My Boston Gal to win a Keeneland maiden race and a Churchill allowance. "Ever since the first time I got on her, I've had high hopes for her. Sometimes that doesn't happen in their races, but the first time she was impressive, and the second time she was real impressive. She's one of the best fillies I've ever ridden, especially a 2-year-old."

Perhaps six or seven fillies will challenge My Boston Gal in the 1 1/16-mile Golden Rod, including Belle of Perintown and Star of Atticus, the respective one-two finishers in the Pocahontas Stakes earlier this month.

Winfree thinking positive

Veteran trainer Don Winfree pays as much attention to racing around the country as just about anyone, so when Lido Palace was all-out to win an Oct. 20 allowance at Belmont Park, Winfree was watching closely.

"If that's all he's got, he's in trouble," said Winfree, who will send out Tenpins as a major contender against highweighted Lido Palace in the Clark Handicap on Friday. "But I know he's probably a lot better horse than that. If all of him shows up, then it's going to be a tough race."

Winfree said he is "tickled to death" with the year Tenpins has had. A Michigan-bred 4-year-old colt, Tenpins has won 5 of 6 starts and nearly $540,000.

"Usually when you make big plans, they blow up," said Winfree. "But if we can win Friday, it'll be pretty much like we drew it up on the blackboard. That's rare in this game."

Day after draws a crowd

The Friday before the Kentucky Derby is known as "Louisville's Day at the Races," a May afternoon when more than 100,000 show up at Churchill.

The Friday after Thanksgiving doesn't have a title, but it is similarly popular with local racegoers. The second-to-last day of the fall meet almost always is the most well-attended day.

"It's a tradition," said Tony Terry, Churchill's longtime publicity director. "As certain members of the family head off to the malls, other certain members of the family head off to the track.

"I think another part of it is that people are looking to blow off some steam after the traditional Thanksgiving gatherings and all. A lot of people are in from out of town looking to go have some fun with people they maybe haven't seen in a while."

In some years, attendance has neared 20,000. "We'll get maybe 15,000 Friday," said Terry. "It should be the largest day of the fall meet again."

Colonial Glitter wins off-turf sprint

Colonial Glitter, ridden by Brice Blanc, rallied to upset 2-5 favorite Roxelana by a 1 1/4 lengths in the richest race of the Wednesday card, a five-furlong, $62,000 allowance that was one of two turf races transferred to the main track because of wet conditions.

The victory was the first for Colonial Glitter since she won the Bourbonette Stakes at Turfway Park in March. She paid $18.80 to win.

Butch Lehr, Churchill's longtime track superintendent, said he decided to transfer the grass races partly because he wanted to preserve the course for the final three-day stretch of the meet, when three turf races were scheduled for each day.