10/31/2007 12:00AM

Albarado basks in BC glory

EmailLOUISVILLE, Ky. - Robby Albarado couldn't walk more than a few steps before getting a hug or an autograph request. Four days after Albarado rode Curlin to win the richest race in North America, the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic, the people who have gotten to know him best through the years - Churchill Downs fans - were seeking him out for congratulations as he slowly returned to the jockeys' room following the first race Wednesday.

"Just another Wednesday at Churchill Downs," Albarado said with a sly smile. "Another nice day."

For Albarado, 34, it's all gravy after this. After winning his first Triple Crown race in May, the Preakness aboard Curlin, he has gone on to enjoy easily the most productive year of his career, both in major stakes victories and earnings. Into this week, his mount earnings were nearly $17.5 million, far exceeding the $11 million his mounts earned in 2003, the former high mark of his 17-year career. As usual, he will ride out the next few weeks at Churchill before leaving at the end of the month for Fair Grounds in New Orleans, where he is also a perennial leading jockey.

Albarado said the magnitude of his first Breeders' Cup victory "hasn't really sunk in yet. When I rode Mineshaft [the 2003 Horse of the Year], I thought I'd probably never get another chance to ride a horse that good. Then Curlin comes along, and here we are again. It's unreal."

Albarado said he was particularly proud of how Curlin carried on a ferocious rivalry this year with his fellow 3-year-olds.

"The Curlin-Street Sense-Hard Spun thing, it was great for racing," he said. "We really needed something like that."

Although a decision on whether Curlin will race next year at 4 is not expected to be announced anytime soon by the four-way partnership that owns the colt, Albarado said he knows what he would like to see happen.

"Not just for myself, but I'd love to see Curlin run next year," he said. "With all the other horses retiring, who else can step up? Maybe a [Kentucky] Derby superstar will come along next year, but you never know. Honestly, I think we all need him to come back."

Fields set for Chilukki and Ack Ack

Entries for the two graded stakes that will be run Saturday at Churchill were drawn Wednesday. The Grade 2 Chilukki drew a field of nine fillies and mares, while the Grade 3 Ack Ack got a field of eight older horses.

Rolling Sea and High Heels look like the favorites for the Chilukki, which is carded as the 10th of 11 Saturday races. In the Ack Ack (race 9), Sun King, the Nick Zito-trained veteran who has earned nearly $2.2 million, figures as the wagering choice when trying to rebound from a fourth-place finish behind Curlin in the Jockey Club Gold Cup.

Both races carry $200,000 purses and will be run at one mile out of the Longfield Avenue chute on the main track.

Buffalo Man eyes Churchill move

Buffalo Man, scratched from the Select Stakes on the Breeders' Cup undercard at Monmouth Park because of the sloppy track, could ship to Churchill shortly after returning from an eight-month layoff Thursday in the third race at Aqueduct. Clint Glasscock, the Louisville businessman who is one of the part-owners in the 3-year-old colt, said that running at Churchill Churchill is one of several upcoming options for Buffalo Man, along with staying in New York for the Cigar Mile later this month or possibly shipping to California.

Track launches preview show

Unlike many other tracks, Churchill has never previewed the races each day on television - until now. "Churchill Downs Today," a half-hour handicapping show hosted by John Asher and Jill Byrne, airs live each racing day at the track at 10:30 a.m. Eastern. The show will be replayed daily at 11:30 a.m. on HRTV and at various simulcast venues.