10/23/2003 12:00AM

Winfree tempers ambition with Tenpins


LEXINGTON, Ky. - Trainer Don Winfree's initial inclination was to run Tenpins against some of the world's top older horses in the Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita. But instead of being a longshot for a $4 million purse, Tenpins has settled for being the heavy favorite in Saturday's $150,000 Fayette, a Grade 3 race he captured last year on Breeders' Cup Day.

"Maybe we're leaving a lot of money on the table, I don't know," said Winfree, a Churchill Downs-based veteran who trains Tenpins for Detroit businessman Joe Vitello. "Obviously we'll have to see how he does Saturday. I do know that if everything goes the way we hope, he'll be tough to beat. He's coming up to this the right way."

Tenpins, a 5-year-old by Smart Strike, is one of seven older horses entered in the 45th running of the 1 1/8-mile Fayette. From 14 career starts, the horse has used a combination of speed and determination to win nine races and nearly $1.1 million, a record that Winfree felt merited a trip to the Breeders' Cup. Nonetheless, the final decision was to stay home for the Fayette and the $500,000 Clark Handicap on Nov. 28 at Churchill.

If Tenpins is somehow unable to defend his title successfully, the Fayette may fall the way of Quest, the Nick Zito-trained colt who rallied to finish second behind Mineshaft in his last race, the Sept. 27 Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont. Zito has enjoyed a very strong meet and figures to have his second Keeneland training title (the first came in spring 1997) wrapped up by Saturday.

The rest of the Fayette field is Changeintheweather, Country Be Gold, M B Sea, Seattle Fitz, and Sonic West.

The Fayette, which is run under allowance conditions, is the last of four races on an abbreviated card that closes the 17-day Keeneland fall meet. First post Saturday is 12:30 p.m.

Two live races will be run before the first BC simulcast, the Distaff, which is set for 1:20. The last two Keeneland races, including the Fayette, will be interspersed with the ensuing BC simulcasts.

Louisville fans will be able to watch all the action at the Trackside simulcast annex, and also at Churchill Downs, which will be open the day before the track's 27-day fall meet opens Sunday.