11/08/2006 12:00AM

Tough beats land 'Forester' in good spot

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - A couple of narrow defeats by Old Forester this summer might be a blessing in disguise, at least as it pertains to the feature race Friday at Churchill Downs.

Old Forester was beaten a head in the Battlefield Stakes at Monmouth Park in June, then a neck in a high-end allowance race at Saratoga in his next start in August. If he had gotten up to win either race, he would not have been eligible for the classified conditions that govern the eighth of 10 Friday races, a $61,000 allowance scheduled for 1 1/16 miles on the turf.

Instead, Old Forester looks like the horse to beat among a full field of 3-year-olds and upward. After those two tough beats - he lost despite earning 100 Beyer Speed Figures in both races - he returned to win the Grade 3 Cliffhanger Handicap on Sept. 29 at the Meadowlands, this time being on the right end of the photo and prevailing by a nose following a long drive.

Old Forester will be ridden Friday by Eddie Castro, who will be sporting the same Live Oak Plantation silks he wore when he notched his greatest victory, last Saturday aboard Miesque's Approval in the $2 million Breeders' Cup Mile. Old Forester is trained by Bill Mott, the Hall of Famer who formerly trained Miesque's Approval before Charlotte Weber, the owner of Live Oak, turned the horse over to current trainer Marty Wolfson.

Besides Old Forester, the Friday feature also drew such talented turf horses as Therecomesatiger, Better Than Bonds, and Night Chapter.

Therecomesatiger, trained by Tom Proctor, owns two stakes wins, most notably the Commonwealth Turf over the Churchill turf course last fall. Better Than Bonds was an authoritative recent winner over the Keeneland turf for trainer Graham Motion. Night Chapter, trained by Hall of Famer Bobby Frankel, earned a 100 Beyer two back in a Belmont Park turf victory before finishing fourth to Old Forester in the Cliffhanger.

In all, 14 were entered in the Friday feature, although only as many as 10 can start, assuming the race stays on grass. Besides Old Forester and Better Than Bonds, three others also enter off a win: Gin and Sin, Cointreau, and Gold Hornet.

Two other allowance races, both for fillies and mares, also are on tap on a solid Friday card: a $50,000 first-level turf route (race 6) and a $52,500 second-level sprint (race 9). First post is 12:40 p.m. Eastern.