08/31/2001 12:00AM

Unbridled Time faces elders for first time


He was competitive against open 3-year-olds after dominating his classmates in the Ohio-bred ranks. Now it's time to see whether Unbridled Time is the equal of some of the older state-breds.

The $75,000 Governor's Buckeye Cup, to be run Sunday at River Downs in Cincinnati, is the forum in which Unbridled Time will try his elders for the first time. Trained by D. Wayne Lukas, the gray colt easily won two Ohio stakes earlier this summer before being beaten a nose in his last start, the Aug. 12 Oklahoma Derby at Remington Park.

Precocious early in his 2-year-old season, Unbridled Time spiraled into poor form before Lukas began spotting him in state-bred company. Duly reinvigorated, he will be one of the favorites in a field of nine in the Buckeye Cup, a 1 1/4-mile race carded as the 13th on Ohio's 7 & 7 program Sunday.

The top challengers to Unbridled Time include the top four finishers in the last major race for older Ohio-breds, the July 29 George Lewis at Thistledown. Fervent Affair won that day, turning back Huw and Fax a Freddy, with Majestic Dinner a close fourth despite a terrible start. Fervent Affair and Majestic Dinner, both owned by Pyrite Stables, will be coupled again Sunday.

The rest of the Buckeye field consists of Rupert Herd, Recognize,

C.L. Rib, and Deadline Dude.

The Buckeye Cup is in the middle of the richest weekend of racing at River this year. The $100,000 Bassinet Stakes was scheduled for Saturday, while the track's signature race, the $200,000 Cradle Stakes, is set for Monday.