06/01/2004 11:00PM

Top three speeds top three, period


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The three speediest horses may also be the best. The ninth race Friday at Churchill Downs presents an interesting matchup for handicappers, as the top three contenders - Shake the Bank, Dynareign, and Puget Sound - all have highly effective speed, and all appear capable of knocking out their second allowance condition in this $52,900 feature.

Shake the Bank, trained by Darrin Miller with Rafael Bejarano riding, may have a slight edge in the one-mile race, especially if able to rate just off the lead, as he did when finishing second at this level in his latest start, May 13. Shake the Bank went through his first allowance condition here last May and has established a pattern of running well over the Churchill course.

His two main rivals are both entered off wins in entry-level turf allowances: Puget Sound was the easiest kind of winner for trainer D. Wayne Lukas on May 9. Dynareign rallied from behind to win for trainer Steve Asmussen two days later.

Another allowance (race 8) also is carded on Friday, when twilight first post is 2:45 p.m. Eastern.

Lunarpal scaring off competition

Asmussen, who enjoyed a sensational Memorial Day in Texas when sending out the winners of four stakes on the Lone Star Million program, is excited about the $125,000 Kentucky Breeders' Cup here Saturday, with one lone caveat: he isn't 100 percent sure there will even be a race.

"Is it going to fill?" Asmussen asked early Wednesday. "I really don't know if it will."

Assuming the race does go - and as Churchill racing secretary Doug Bredar said, there will be "five or six starters, max," for the 5 1/2-furlong race - then Asmussen clearly has the upper hand over whomever else chooses to run. Asmussen will send out Lunarpal, the speedy colt who won the Three Chimneys Juvenile on the Kentucky Derby undercard.

The Kentucky BC is one of two Grade 3 stakes that will be run as part of an 11-race card here Saturday, a day that figures to draw a large crowd if only because of the Belmont Stakes simulcast. The other stakes, the $150,000 Dogwood Breeders' Cup, is being made up after being canceled Sunday because of weather.

The Dogwood BC, a 1 1/16-mile race for 3-year-old fillies, figures to have essentially the same lineup as the one assembled last week. One notable change involves the probable favorite, Ender's Sister. Pat Day, who would have ridden her Sunday, will be in New York to ride longshot Royal Assault in the Belmont Stakes, a change that helped give Calvin Borel the mount on the Rusty Arnold-trained Ender's Sister.

Cuvee has throat infection

Asmussen said Cuvee, the speedy colt who ran second in the May 8 Matt Winn in his 3-year-old debut, has been sidelined by "a pretty good throat infection," and is out indefinitely.

"Obviously, it's untimely," said Asmussen. "He's here in the barn, but I still don't have him back in training. We wanted to run him in the Riva Ridge on Belmont Day but we'll have to look at something else down the road."

Cuvee was one of the most precocious and accomplished 2-year-olds of 2003 before being injured when badly beaten as the favorite in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile in October.

* Marty Scully, who handled some of the biggest bets in Kentucky and at Oaklawn Park for decades in a mutuels career that spanned 40 years, died Tuesday in Louisville after a brief illness. He was 75.

Scully, a tall, congenial gentleman, was a fixture at the $50 dollar window at Churchill, Oaklawn, Ellis Park, and other tracks. He suffered a heart attack on the morning of the Kentucky Oaks, April 30, and never fully recovered.