04/27/2007 12:00AM

Woodford won't get Maker's Mark top three


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - With none of the top three finishers in the recent Maker's Mark Mile wheeling back on three weeks' rest, the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic is shaping up as a wide-open race, according to Churchill Downs racing officials.

The $500,000 Woodford, which directly precedes the Kentucky Derby on the May 5 program at Churchill, will not have Kip Deville, Showing Up, or Purim, the top three finishers in a tough renewal of the Maker's Mark on April 13 at Keeneland. At this early juncture, the top contenders for the 1 1/8-mile race appear to be Better Talk Now, Brilliant, Einstein, and Milk It Mick.

Although 110 older horses were nominated and there is no overwhelming favorite to discourage entries, the Woodford does not appear likely to get the 14-horse limit in effect for all Churchill stakes, racing secretary Ben Huffman said. Entries for the Woodford, and all Derby Day races, will be drawn Wednesday.

"We're hustling the Woodford pretty hard right now," Huffman said.

Brilliant, trained by Neil Howard, will be coming off a third-place finish in a recent allowance prep at Keeneland, where the 4-year-old colt was making his second start since October.

"We were very pleased with his race at Keeneland," Howard said. "He's trained real well since, and we're hoping to work him Tuesday on the turf, weather permitting. We should be all set to go."

Brilliant was ridden by Robby Albarado at Keeneland but will be ridden by Mark Guidry in the Woodford. Albarado has committed to trainer Helen Pitts on Einstein, the Brazilian-bred who won the Grade 2 Muniz Handicap at Fair Grounds last out.

Details scant on queen's Derby visit

Information about the Kentucky Derby visit by Queen Elizabeth II of England is very difficult to come by. The only public announcement made thus far is that the queen will be attending the Derby, but no other details are being released.

It is widely believed the queen will be staying at Lane's End, the Versailles, Ky., breeding farm owned by Will Farish, a longtime friend of the royal family and a one-time U.S. ambassador to the Court of St. James. But a call to Lane's End on Friday regarding the queen's visit produced nothing.

"We cannot say anything about it," said Jackie Carter, Farish's assistant.

Churchill also is closely guarding the queen's privacy. Her visit is requiring the same level of security as a Presidential visit, with the U.S. Secret Service overseeing all details. Her Derby Day motorcade will cause traffic to be stopped or re-routed, and once at Churchill she will be entertained in an unspecified suite, one that will require all other people to be subjected to strict security measures. Preparation of her food and drink also will be overseen by the Secret Service. It is not known whether the queen will appear on a balcony or anywhere else to wave to the crowd.

There have been occasional Derby visits by British royalty in previous years, with perhaps the most memorable coming in 1974 when Princess Margaret, the queen's sister, attended the 100th Derby. The queen is a lifelong racing fan who frequents British tracks for major races and attended the first Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland in 1984 while Farish's guest. This will be her first trip to the Derby.

Humana marks Bushfire's '07 debut

Bushfire, one of the top 3-year-old fillies last year, will make her 4-year-old bow in the Grade 1 Humana Distaff on Saturday's Kentucky Derby undercard, trainer Eddie Kenneally said Friday.

Unraced since finishing 11th in the Breeders' Cup Distaff on Nov. 4, she will need a peak effort off a layoff to win the seven-furlong Humana Distaff, a race that is expected to attract such quality female sprinters as Hystericalady, Leah's Secret, Maryfield, Shaggy Mane, Wildcat Bettie B, and defending champion Pussycat Doll.

"It's always tough to come back against horses that have fitness from the benefit of racing," Kenneally said.

According to Kenneally, Bushfire has trained well since having a 90-day freshening over the winter in Ocala, Fla., a break he said she needed after a long 3-year-old campaign that resulted in her tailing off late last year.

There were few horses hotter than Bushfire during the spring and summer, however. From April through July, she won the Ashland, Acorn, and Mother Goose stakes - becoming the first filly in history to win all three races.

A stablemate of Bushfire, Madison Stakes winner Mary Delaney, will bypass the Humana Distaff, Kenneally said. A winner of her last five races on Polytrack, she is being pointed for the Grade 3 Hendrie Stakes on May 13 at Woodbine, which unlike Churchill Downs has a Polytrack surface.

* Unlike most other racetracks around the country, including all other Kentucky tracks, Churchill Downs does not offer 10-cent superfectas among its betting menu. The primary reason is because dime supers tend to clog betting lines, which already is a major issue on Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby days at Churchill, and also because general manager Jim Gates has a long-held belief that dime supers have not necessarily proved profitable.

- additional reporting by Byron King