06/06/2001 11:00PM

Two win streaks clash in $250k Jefferson Cup

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Something will have to give Saturday at Churchill Downs when a pair of colts with modest winning streaks clash in a field of 10 3-year-olds in the $250,000 Jefferson Cup.

Kalu, winner of his last three starts for trainer Christophe Clement, and Strategic Partner, who enters off back-to-back wins culminating in the Crown Royal American Turf on the Kentucky Oaks undercard, are the principals in the Grade 3 Jefferson Cup, at 1 1/8 miles on turf.

After winning his maiden at Hialeah, Kalu won the Forerunner at Keeneland and the Hawthorne Derby. Strategic Partner has been more of a project for Mark Hennig, losing six straight races before adding Lasix and blinkers. Before winning his last two races, the Kris S. colt "was kind of wanting to mess around on the far turn and was getting himself farther behind at that point," said Hennig's assistant, Rob Rader. "He'd come running but he wasn't getting it done."

Other contenders in a solid field include Harrisand, Afternoon Pleasure, and Indygo Shiner. Also in are Tarzan Cry, X Country, Fast City, Monsieur Cat, and Bundy Rum.

The Jefferson Cup serves as a key prelude to the Grade 1 Secretariat Stakes, which will be run Aug. 18 at Arlington Park. Last year, King Cugat easily won the Jefferson Cup before finishing second in the Secretariat as the odds-on favorite.

The Jeff Cup is the ninth of 11 races on a Saturday card that incorporates the Belmont Stakes simulcast as the last "live" race. Wagering on the Belmont will be available through separate pools at Churchill, meaning fans will be able to choose between two different commingled signals.

In an earlier allowance (race 7), the 3-year-old Percy Hope, winner of the Lone Star Derby, is scheduled to make his turf debut against older horses. The $59,800 race drew an overflow field.

Present for General Tibbets

After General Tibbets led all the way to win the eighth race Wednesday, the colt's managing partner, Jack Smith, said fate may have played a part in the victory.

General Tibbets, a 3-year-old colt, is named for Gen. Paul Tibbets, who was the pilot whose airplane dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, in 1945. Wednesday was the 56th anniversary of D-Day in Europe for the Allied forces.

Smith said he "made a little wager" on behalf of Gen. Tibbets (the man), who lives in Columbus, Ohio.

General Tibbets (the horse) returned $10.80 to win and was the fourth of five wins for jockey Pat Day on the Wednesday card. It was the third five-win day of the for Day, who is easily the leading rider at the spring meet.

Prather scores first comeback win

Apprentice Kris Prather recorded her first triumph with just her third mount since returning from a 2 1/2-month layoff when guiding Toughman to a 1 1/4-length victory in the second race Thursday at Churchill.

Toughman was always prominent in the maiden-claiming sprint for 2-year-olds, edging away in the final furlong from Ididarod Trail, the odds-on favorite. The winner, trained by Bernie Flint, paid $30.40 to win.

In the first race of the day, Prather, riding Tuckalucky Lady, was beaten just a head by favored Taylors Angel.

Prather, 22, led all North American jockeys in victories this year until several weeks after being sidelined by knee injuries in a March 17 starting-gate accident at Turfway Park. The Thursday victory was her 111th of the year.

* Orlando Mojica wasted little time finding the winner's circle. Mojica, 19, won with just his second mount at Churchill when guiding Taxible ($34.20) to an upset in the sixth race Wednesday. Mojica is a recent arrival from Puerto Rico by way of Calder. He is the younger brother of the East Coast-based jockey Rafael Mojica Jr. His agent is the longtime Kentucky veteran Terry "Jaws" Miller.

* Keats, the Lexington Stakes winner who bruised a hoof while running 16th in the Kentucky Derby, returned to training this week. Trainer Niall O'Callaghan said he hopes to have the colt racing in another 60 days.

* Arctic Boy, 12th in the Derby in his most recent race, will be getting a brief summer vacation, said trainer Tony Richey. "He just has a few little nips and tucks and a little filling here and there," said Richey. "He ran hard all winter."

* Weights for the $750,000 Stephen Foster Handicap, to be run next Saturday, are scheduled to be released Sunday. Captain Steve and Unshaded are expected to be the starting highweights in the Grade 2, 1 1/8-mile race.