10/10/2003 12:00AM

Ungraded Cowdin draws a field of three

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ELMONT, N.Y. - The Cowdin Stakes, run on Sunday at Belmont Park, lost its grade for this year's running and its purse was dropped from $100,000 to $75,000. Its decreased status was reflected in the embarrassingly small number of 2-year-olds entered in the race on Friday.

Only three of the 18 nominees, Lissau, Boston Brahmin, and Smokume, passed the entry box for the 6 1/2-furlong stakes. Because of the size of the field, the Cowdin will be run as the third race, with win betting only. The racing office also added another race to what was originally intended to be a 10-race card.

Smokume shoots for his third consecutive win after winning his first two starts. Apprentice Shannon Uske will ride the Allen Jerkens-trained Smokume. Because it is a stakes, Uske, who gallops horses for Jerkens, is unable to claim her seven-pound apprentice allowance. Last weekend, Jerkens and Ray Ganpath, one of the trainer's other exercise riders, combined to win the Grade 1 Frizette with Society Selection.

Smokume figures to get a stalking trip behind Lissau and Boston Brahmin, the winner and runner-up in the Smoke Glacken Stakes at Monmouth Park on Aug. 14.

Shake You Down sharp in work

After Shake You Down worked five furlongs in a sizzling 57.91 seconds, handily, on Belmont's main track on Friday, his trainer, Scott Lake, was full of praise for his Breeders' Cup Sprint candidate.

"This is the best he has ever worked for me," Lake said. "In his last work, he went 58 and change, and I wasn't completely pleased, even though he did it very well and easily. I think we are the horse to beat in the Sprint."

Jockey Mike Luzzi, who will ride Shake You Down in the $1 million Sprint on Oct. 26, was aboard for the work, which was the fastest of 21 at the distance.

Lake said Shake You Down would leave for Santa Anita Park on Tuesday or Wednesday. Shake You Down's final work for the Breeders' Cup will be on the Monday or Tuesday the week of the race. Luzzi will go to California to work the horse.

New trainer, better spot

Meridiana was in an incredibly tough spot when she ran in the Grade 1 Sword Dancer at Saratoga against older turf males. She will make her first start for trainer Christophe Clement in a more suitable race on Monday in the $100,000 Pebbles Handicap, a Grade 3 for 3-year-old turf fillies.

After finishing 10th in the Sword Dancer, Meridiana was bought by Jon Kelly and given to Clement to train. Meridiana had previously raced in Europe for trainer Hans Blume, who saddled her to a win in the Group 1 Italian Oaks in May.

Clement said he is looking forward to running Meridiana in the 1 1/8-mile Pebbles.

"She's an exciting prospect," Clement said. "Going from a Grade 1 against the boys to a Grade 3 for 3-year-old fillies is not quite the same. She needed a little bit of time between races. She really looks good and has trained well."

Clement said he also was considering running Where We Left Off, the runner-up to Betty's Wish in an overnight stakes here on Sept. 24.

Meridiana was assigned 117 pounds for the Pebbles. Other probables and their weights are Loving Kindness (117), Betty's Wish (116), Little Miss Pamela (115), Andover Lady (113), Boom Bah Yay (112), Harmonist (111), and Mystery Itself (111).

Traffic Chief up against Funny Cide

In most other years, Traffic Chief, a New York-bred 3-year-old, would have been the leader of his division. Instead, Traffic Chief will be an underdog against Funny Cide in next Saturday's $250,000 Empire Classic.

Traffic Chief, a winner of 5 of 6 starts, won the New York Derby and the Albany during the summer. He also finished second in the Grade 3 Hill Prince. Mike Hushion, who trains Traffic Chief for New York Racing Association chairman Barry Schwartz, said the colt has exceeded his original expectations.

Traffic Chief's regular rider, Jose Santos, is committed to ride Funny Cide, so Hushion has given the mount to Richard Migliore.

The 1 1/8-mile Empire Classic is shaping up to be a terrific race. Gander, who has won the race twice, and Well Fancied, who won back-to-back stakes at Belmont in his last two starts, are among the probables.

The Empire Classic is one of seven stakes for New York-breds on New York Showcase Day. The other races are the $150,000 Mohawk, $150,000 Ticonderoga, $125,000 Hudson, $125,000 Iroquois, $100,000 Sleepy Hollow, and $100,000 Maid of the Mist.

* During, in preparation for the $100,000 Discovery Handicap at Aqueduct on Oct. 29, worked six furlongs in 1:12.64, handily, on the main track on Friday. It was the fastest of three works at the distance. Shawklit Mint, a nominee to the Iroquois, worked five furlongs in 1:02.46, handily.

* Belmont will be open on Monday for Columbus Day and dark on Tuesday and Wednesday. Entries for next Thursday's card will be taken on Monday.