03/04/2008 12:00AM

Absolutely Cindy rewards Kinmon

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The winner of the John Battaglia Memorial Stakes invariably runs well enough that he goes next in the Lane's End Stakes.

This year, however, is different. He is a she. Absolutely Cindy, the 3-year-old filly who defeated 10 colts and geldings in her 19-1 upset of the $100,000 Battaglia Memorial on Saturday at Turfway Park, could run next in the March 22 Bourbonette Stakes at Turfway, with the Grade 1 Ashland Stakes and possibly the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks to follow.

Easily the most refreshing part of the Absolutely Cindy story is that her breeder, owner, and trainer are all the same person. Keith Kinmon, 53, has been calling Absolutely Cindy his dream horse since last fall, when the filly won a maiden race on the Keeneland turf, then the Caressing Stakes on the Churchill Downs turf.

"We've always had a lot of faith in this filly," Kinmon said Monday morning from Turfway in Florence, Ky. "We're really enjoying the heck out of this. We got second-guessed on running her against the boys, but after she worked Tuesday and told me she was ready, I didn't hesitate putting her in. It was the right spot for her at the right time."

Kinmon owns a steel company and a 300-acre farm in Grant County, Ky., near Turfway. Kinmon, who has trained off and on since 1992, does not mind admitting that he has "trained a lot of bad horses," but Absolutely Cindy is making all his previous frustrations in racing worthwhile.

Absolutely Cindy is by Arch out of Ms. Boucheron, a mare that Kinmon still owns. Kinmon said he has been inundated with "some very serious offers" to sell Absolutely Cindy.

"It really puts undue pressure on you," he said. "It makes you step back and take a hard look."

Kinmon gives credit to the filly's groom, Junior Landry, for helping to reverse her last race, a distant sixth-place finish in the Silverbulletday Stakes on the main track at the Fair Grounds.

"It wasn't so much moving from the dirt to the Polytrack that turned her around," Kinmon said. "She'd been gone from here for 32 days, but just a few days after we got her back here, Junior had gotten her back to her old self. The filly really loves him."

Absolutely Cindy earned an 89 Beyer Speed Figure in the Battaglia.

Kinmon said he is not sure about running Absolutely Cindy in both the Bourbonette and the Ashland but most likely will run her in one or the other. As for the Oaks, "I wouldn't just run her in there to do it," he said. "She'd have to work well over the track at Churchill. I honestly think the turf is her best surface, but she can run over anything."

The Bourbonette, a Grade 3 race at one mile, is run on the undercard of the $500,000 Lane's End Stakes, a Grade 2 race that typically produces a starter or two for the Kentucky Derby. The Ashland is set for April 5 and the Kentucky Oaks for May 2.

Pair of jockeys return early

Quite a few jockeys ride in Kentucky for most of the year but leave for other major venues in the winter. When they return, it's usually in time for the Keeneland spring meet in April.

But two jockeys have returned early after having moderate success elsewhere. Brian Hernandez Jr. returned last week from Oaklawn Park, and Jesus Castanon is back from the Fair Grounds.

Hernandez, the 2004 Eclipse Award-winning apprentice, was the leading rider at the Turfway holiday meet in December. Castanon has been a top-10 rider at most Kentucky meets for the last few years.

Temperature sidelines Miner's Claim

At least in terms of 3-year-old prospects, last week wasn't a good one for trainer Mark Casse.

Not only did Briarwood Circle finish 11th and last in the Battaglia as a lukewarm favorite, but another Casse-trained prospect didn't even make the race. Casse said he hoped to run Miner's Claim but the Mineshaft colt recently came down with a temperature, he said.

Miner's Claim was an impressive winner of his two starts, both at Woodbine last fall. He is based at the Ocala Training Center.

Fundraiser for Vitek

Turfway is using its annual crawfish boil as a way to raise funds on behalf of ailing jockey Justin Vitek, who remains hospitalized in Louisville after recently being found to have leukemia.

Turfway is seeking items for a silent auction to be held at the crawfish boil, which is set for the evening of March 18. Cash donations also are being accepted. For more information, call Lindsey Eger at (859) 647-4804.

Vitek, 34, has been undergoing intense chemotherapy treatments since Feb. 20 after being diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia. A native of Texas, Vitek has ridden regularly in Kentucky for the last seven years after starting his career in 1993.