05/22/2005 11:00PM

Woodard chases win-streak mark

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Joe Woodard, in the midst of a seven-race win streak at Churchill Downs, can break the track's record for consecutive victories by a trainer when he starts a pair of horses at Churchill Wednesday.

Woodard has entered Slider, a winner of more than a half-million dollars, in a $62,500 claiming contest in race 2, and Bahama Beau, a recent winner at River Downs, in the fifth race, a $10,000 nonwinners-of-three claiming race. Both horses will be among the favorites.

A win by Slider would give Woodard a share of Pat Byrne's record of eight consecutive victories at Churchill Downs, set in the spring of 1997. Wins by both Woodard horses would give him the record outright.

"If we break it, fine, if we don't, I just want to hope we can continue to have a good meet," Woodard said Monday morning.

He has 7 wins from 11 starters at the Churchill meet, with two of his losses on-the-board finishes. Six of his seven straight winners at Churchill have come for his primary owner, Billy Hays. The other was for Ken and Sarah Ramsey.

Tony Terry, longtime director of publicity for Churchill Downs, said the track does not keep win-streak records of owners, but said he believes winning with six consecutive starters is a record for an owner at Churchill Downs.

"You don't have to be a world-beater if run in the right spots," said Woodard. "We used to buy a lot of the richer horses, but now we've been able to get, like, 14 horses in that $10,000-$15,000 range."

Byrne, whose barn is a short distance from Woodard's Churchill stable, joked that "there must be something in the water" in their section of the backstretch. He said Woodard has excelled because he works hard and has owners that allow him to place horses in the right spots.

"I hope he gets 10 in a row," Byrne said.

Woodard's bid to win eight or more in a row applies only to Churchill Downs, not other tracks. While in the midst of his Churchill win streak, several of his horses have lost at River Downs.

When Byrne won eight straight at Churchill Downs, it was the only track at which he was racing at the time. A win at Keeneland preceded his Churchill streak, giving him nine winners in a row, irrespective of location. Eventual 1997 Horse of the Year Favorite Trick was responsible for two of the record victories.

Wednesday: Parker Run drops

A pair of three-other-than allowances highlight Wednesday's card. Parker Run, dropping out of stakes races, looms the favorite

in the eighth race, a $55,800 allowance at five furlongs on turf. A race later, a River Mountain Rd. takes a similar drop from stakes company in a $57,000 optional claimer on the main track.

River Mountain Rd. is trained by Bob Holthus, who returned to his barn during training hours Sunday - less than a week after undergoing heart-related surgery last Monday. Holthus, who had a defibrillator replaced and a pacemaker implanted, sat in a lawn chair in front of his barn and spoke with friends. "I'm a little weak, but I feel pretty good," he said.

The third race, a $68,200 allowance at 1 1/16 miles on dirt, also has a talented cast, led by graded stakes winners Injustice and La Reason. They face only three opponents.

Rapid Proof gets ready

Rapid Proof, coming off a pair of major stakes victories, tuned up for Monday's Grade 3 Louisville Handicap by breezing five furlongs in 1:01.80 over a fast Churchill Downs main track Sunday.

Rapid Proof will enter the Louisville Handicap off of victories in the $200,000 John B. Connally Breeders' Cup at Sam Houston Park and the Grade 2 Mervin Muniz Jr. Handicap at Fair Grounds, both 1 1/8-mile turf races. He won both races by a head. In the Muniz, he defeated America Alive, who went on to win the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic.

Rapid Proof is untested at the 1 3/8-mile turf distance of the Louisville Handicap.

"It gives us another option with him" if he can handle the marathon distance, trainer Hal Wiggins said.

Senor Swinger, another potential Louisville Handicap starter, worked five furlongs Monday over a fast track in 1:00.20. Senor Swinger won the Grade 3 Jefferson Cup here in 2003.