10/16/2001 12:00AM

Unlikely battle in Fort Springs


LEXINGTON, Ky. - Equine melting pot that it is, Keeneland occasionally showcases matchups that horseplayers are unlikely to see anywhere else.

Through the years, there have been all sorts of races that could be classified as East vs. West, or David vs. Goliath, or just about any imaginable theme. With horses shipping in from virtually every corner of North America, the combinations have been boundless.

It might be easily said, then, that only at Keeneland would you find a matchup such as El Malicia against Incredible Carson. The two will meet in the $75,000 Fort Springs Stakes, the eighth and featured race Thursday at Keeneland.

El Malicia is owned and trained by Eusebio Razo Sr., a native of Mexico who in recent years has carved out a niche with a mid-sized string of claiming horses on the Chicago circuit.

Incredible Carson is trained by Mike "Tromby" Trombetta, a veteran Maryland trainer who also has knocked out a living primarily by running claimers.

Neither Razo nor Trombetta venture far from their home tracks very often, although Razo makes the occasional foray to Kentucky, and Trombetta sometimes runs horses at other tracks on or near the Eastern seaboard.

Only five 2-year-olds are entered in the six-furlong Fort Springs. Although the other three starters - Expect, Handsome Hunk, and Truman's Raider - have decent credentials, the favorite figures to be either Incredible Carson, a winner of three of five starts, or El Malicia, unbeaten in two appearances.

Incredible Carson, a speedy Kentucky-bred gelding, won his maiden for a $75,000 claiming price at Belmont in his second start. Since then, he has sandwiched wins in a Delaware allowance and a Pimlico Stakes around a runner-up finish in a stakes at Philadelphia Park. Mark Guidry has the mount Thursday.

El Malicia is less seasoned, but his two wins, both at Arlington Park, have been spectacular. His career debut for a $50,000 claiming price resulted in a seven-length win, after which he won an allowance race by 7 3/4 lengths. Eusebio "Eddie" Razo Jr. will ride for his father.

Among the notable previous winners of the Fort Springs was Lord Carson (1994). He is the sire of Incredible Carson.

Pair of Grade 3's over weekend

The two stakes here this weekend both carry Grade 3 rankings and $100,000 purses.

The Saturday feature is the Valley View Stakes for 3-year-old turf fillies, a race that figures to get the turf-course maximum of 10 starters.

The Sunday feature is the Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes, which should have Miss Seffens as a solid favorite.

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