09/29/2003 11:00PM

Wild Spirit takes a pass on Spinster


LEXINGTON, Ky. - The three-day opening of the fall meet will draw tens of thousands of fans to Keeneland Race Course this weekend, but no one will blame racegoers if their thoughts occasionally turn to closing day.

The 17-day Keeneland meet ends Oct. 25, which happens to be the same day as the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships at Santa Anita - and no fewer than six races on Keeneland's opening weekend serve as potential stepping-stones for the Breeders' Cup.

The action starts Friday with the $400,000 Darley Alcibiades and $250,000 Phoenix Breeders' Cup Stakes. It continues Saturday with the $600,000 Shadwell Turf Mile and $400,000 Lane's End Breeders' Futurity, then finally ends Sunday with the $500,000 Overbrook Spinster and $500,000 WinStar Galaxy. Each of those Keeneland races is expected to draw at least several horses whose connections are hoping to travel to Santa Anita to see their colors carried in the Breeders' Cup.

The traditional meet showcase, the Grade 1 Spinster, was supposed to lure Wild Spirit, the Chilean-bred filly who was sensational in winning her last start, the Grade 1 Ruffian at Belmont on Sept. 13. But trainer Bobby Frankel said Tuesday from Belmont Park that he will pass the 1 1/8-mile Spinster while still keeping the filly under consideration for the BC Distaff. Sumaya Us Stable, which owns Wild Spirit, would have to pay a $400,000, or 20 percent, supplementary fee to make the $2 million Distaff.

"I don't want to run her back in three weeks," said Frankel. As for the Breeders' Cup, "there is a chance," he said.

The defection of Wild Spirit leaves the Spinster with a remarkably familiar scenario: Take Charge Lady, who prevailed as the favorite last year over You and Printemps, should again rule the solid favorite in a field that also is expected to include . . . You and Printemps. A few more fillies and mares are possible starters, including Summer Colony, Desert Gold, and Miss Linda.

The probable favorite in the Grade 2 Alcibiades, a prelude to the BC Juvenile Fillies, is Lokoya, who was beaten a nose by stablemate Marylebone in the Grade 1 Matron Stakes last month. John Velazquez will ride Lokoya before returning by jet to ride Volponi that night in the Meadowlands Cup.

"We're trying to go out and get some black type for Lokoya," said Todd Pletcher, who trains the Woodman filly for James Scatuorchio. "We feel like her style will suit Keeneland very well."

Because Pletcher already has Marylebone in position for the Juvenile Fillies, "we're not putting all our eggs in the Breeders' Cup basket with Lokoya, although we hope to make it with her, too. But if she can win the Alcibiades, on its own, that would be an important race for her."

At least seven starters are expected for the 1 1/16-mile Alcibiades, roughly the same number as the Grade 3 Phoenix, a six-furlong race in which Beau's Town, trained by Cole Norman, will be favored in a field that also will get Ethan Man, Great Notion, and Najran.

The following day, Pletcher also will have at least one major contender in the male counterpart to the Alcibiades, the Grade 2 Breeders' Futurity. Pletcher said he will run Limehouse and "possibly Value Plus, depending on the post positions," in the 1 1/16-mile race. Value Plus also will be cross-entered in the Champagne at Belmont the same day. About 10 2-year-olds are likely for the Breeders' Futurity.

Maybe the deepest stakes of the weekend is the richest: the Grade 1, $600,000 Shadwell Mile. Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, whose three Keeneland stakes wins have all come in the Shadwell (formerly known as the Keeneland BC Mile), has the probable favorite in Trademark, winner of the Bernard Baruch and Fourstardave handicaps in his last two starts.

Several of Trademark's rivals in the Shadwell tuned up for the one-mile race with sharp breezes Monday: Honor in War (50 seconds) and Touch of the Blues (50.40) each went a half-mile over the Keeneland turf, while In Esperado, scheduled to arrive Tuesday from California, went five furlongs at Santa Anita in 1:02. At least nine older horses are expected.

In the Grade 2 Galaxy, the favorite most likely would be Voodoo Dancer if Christophe Clement chooses to put her on a charter scheduled for Thursday, but so far the veteran trainer has committed only Volga to the 1 3/16-mile turf race. If Voodoo Dancer does not run, then Clement might also be represented by Madeira Mist. At least five other fillies and mares are likely, including Wonder Again, Bien Nicole, and Apasionata Sonata.

- additional reporting by David Grening