10/17/2005 11:00PM

Unbridled Sidney tough, if in


LEXINGTON, Ky. - The race that Unbridled Sidney ran on closing weekend of the Churchill Downs spring meet had fans gawking and rivals gasping. Front-runners who refuse to rate through sizzling fractions invariably come back to the pack, but once in a blue moon, they just keep on keeping on.

That's exactly what happened July 9, when Unbridled Sidney easily won a five-furlong overnight stakes in 55.54 seconds, setting a Churchill turf-course record. Even her trainer, Ronny Werner, who as a veteran horse trainer from Texas has seen his share of rapid steeds, was amazed. Werner promised immediately afterward to keep Unbridled Sidney doing what she does best - sprinting on the grass - a pledge that tends to limit the opportunities but maximize the abilities.

Thursday, when the $100,000 Franklin County Stakes is run at Keeneland, Unbridled Sidney should have no excuses - assuming she gets a chance to start. With 12 fillies and mares entered, but only 10 allowed to start, Unbridled Sidney is one of two also-eligibles in the 5 1/2-furlong race.

If she does draw in, the others could be in trouble. Unbridled Sidney, an Unbridled's Song filly, would start from a favorable outside post, which likely would afford her clear sailing under Robby Albarado, who was aboard in her Churchill eye-popper.

If would be a likely candidate to prevail. In fact, in her only race since Churchill, the Aug. 1 Royal North at Woodbine, Unbridled Sidney was beaten at odds-on when Tara's Touch ran her down in the final yards.

Other logical contenders include , a Maryland invader on a four-race winning streak, and a pair of Louisiana Downs shippers, Comalagold and Our Love.

Keeneland officials had hoped until late Tuesday morning that the Franklin County would get Nicole's Dream, possibly the nation's most accomplished filly-mare turf sprinter, but trainer Larry Rivelli declined to enter her. Nicole's Dream is still on target for the Dec. 9 Hong Kong Sprint and "might" run once before then, Rivelli said Tuesday.

The Franklin County, formerly known as the A.P. Indy (1997-2002) and the Clark County (2003-04), is the eighth of nine races on a Thursday card that also includes three allowances (races 5, 6, 7). First post is 1:15 p.m. Eastern.