06/07/2006 11:00PM

Unbridled Sidney slower but smarter

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Reed Palmer Photography
Unbridled Sidney (6), winning the Mamzelle, faces nine turf sprinters in the Excitable Lady.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - When the reliably speedy Unbridled Sidney was unable to get the early lead in the May 4 Mamzelle Stakes at Churchill Downs, her trainer was prepared to wave the white flag.

"She'd never passed a horse down the lane," said Ronny Werner. "And I mean never. Never ever."

But there's a first time for everything, and Werner watched in amazement as Unbridled Sidney, who had chased from second the entire trip, dug in to nail the race-long front-runner, Very Vegas, by a nose.

"Obviously that was great to see her do that, to show that new dimension," said Werner. "She's always kicked away from the gate and made them come catch her, so we were tickled to see her win the way she did."

A 5-year-old Kentucky-bred, Unbridled Sidney will make her first start since the Mamzelle on Saturday at Churchill, where she will face nine other filly-mare turf-sprint specialists in the feature race, the $70,000 Excitable Lady, an overnight handicap at five furlongs. Robby Albarado, who has ridden Unbridled Sidney in 6 of her last 7 starts, has the mount again.

Werner, who will be at Belmont Park on Saturday to run Ermine in the Acorn, theorized that Unbridled Sidney "isn't quite as quick as she used to be."

But, Werner added, "you're not going to save anything by bending her. Maybe she's getting smarter. Maybe she knows more about what she's supposed to do."

Unbridled Sidney figures to vie for favoritism with Nicole's Dream, the Chicago-based standout who has won 21 races, including 17 on turf, and has earned nearly $600,000. Nicole's Dream, a 6-year-old Florida-bred trained by Larry Rivelli, was the beaten favorite in the Mamzelle. Since then, she easily won a small Canterbury Park stakes on May 29.

The Excitable Lady goes as the seventh of 10 races on a Saturday program that starts at 1:15 p.m. Eastern. The 10th race is scheduled for 6:03, after which the Belmont Stakes simulcast will be shown throughout the track at 6:33.

Foster decision Sunday for Buzzards Bay

Buzzards Bay, who would contend for favoritism with Brass Hat if he runs in the June 17 Stephen Foster Handicap, was scheduled to work Saturday at Hollywood Park. Trainer Ron Ellis said he will decide by Sunday whether to put Buzzards Bay on a Monday flight to Kentucky for the Foster or to stay home, where he would be a huge favorite in the June 17 Californian.

The Foster is a Grade 1 race worth $750,000, and the Californian is a Grade 2 race worth $250,000. Both are at 1 1/8 miles. Ellis said staying home has obvious advantages, but he will take into account the Louisville weather forecast and prospective field size before making a decision.

Besides Buzzards Bay and Brass Hat, the other major prospects for the Foster are Perfect Drift, Master Command, and Wanderin Boy.

The secondary feature on Foster Day, the $300,000 Fleur de Lis Handicap, is expected to offer an enticing matchup between Oonagh Maccool and Happy Ticket.

Trackside to stay closed after meet ends

Churchill is sticking with its original decision to keep the Trackside simulcast annex closed after the live meet ends July 16. Trackside was reopened in April, largely because off-season simulcast business was down so much following a move from Trackside to the main Churchill plant last summer, but business did not improve enough to warrant a permanent reopening.

After Trackside closed last July, Churchill had a 13-percent drop in its 2005-06 handle compared with 2004-05 figures. The decrease during the three-week reopening in April, which Churchill attempted essentially as an experiment, was 6 percent.

Churchill has long maintained that its off-season simulcast base has been eroding because of several factors, including the proximity of a riverboat casino and offtrack betting outlet across the Ohio River in Indiana, along with a steady increase in in-home wagering.