06/29/2008 11:00PM

Amoss tries to hold off Asmussen


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Tom Amoss might well be hearing footsteps. In recent days, Amoss has been fighting and scraping to maintain a tenuous lead atop the trainer standings at the Churchill Downs spring meet, but a rival trainer with far greater resources is right on his heels.

Steve Asmussen, with more than 200 horses at his disposal, surely could overwhelm the entry box if so desired this week at Churchill, where the 52-day meet ends Sunday. Of course, Asmussen has greater priorities and has said he does not intend to take any extraordinary measures as the trainers' race goes to the wire.

Into Wednesday, Amoss led by a 30-29 count. Amoss has starters in one race Wednesday and three on Thursday, while Asmussen has runners in five races during those first two days of this racing week.

Einstein totes 124 for Firecracker

Einstein will be a solid favorite when carrying high weight of 124 pounds in the Friday feature at Churchill, the Grade 2 Firecracker Handicap at a mile on turf. Einstein is running back less than three weeks after finishing second to Curlin in the June 14 Stephen Foster Handicap on the main track.

Einstein, trained by Helen Pitts, already is a two-time Grade 1 winner on turf this year, having captured the Gulfstream Park Turf and the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic. Although Pitts believes Einstein is more effective with more distance, she considers the Firecracker to be an ideal prep for the next major goal, the Grade 1 Arlington Million at 1 1/4 miles on Aug. 9.

Churchill racing officials were expecting anywhere from five to eight opponents for Einstein when entries were drawn Tuesday for the $200,000 Firecracker. Other probable starters include Inca King, 118; Thorn Song, 118; Faith's Magic, 116; Karelian, 115; and Steve's Double, 115.

Vance one away from 3,000

Trainer David Vance is just one victory away from the 3,000-win milestone after he sent out two winners Sunday. Vance won with Canali in the second race and This Kat Talks, a 2-year-old filly making her debut, in the fifth.

Vance, 67, has been getting around in a motorized wheelchair while undergoing physical therapy after a serious highway accident in December. He has no entries here Wednesday and one on Thursday.

IEAH official receives Derby trophy

Churchill officials presented Matthew Zulick, a representative of the IEAH Stables, with the winning owner's trophy for the 2008 Kentucky Derby in a brief winner's circle ceremony following the third race Saturday. IEAH won the Derby with Big Brown.

On June 14, Churchill presented trophies to the winning jockey, Kent Desormeaux, and winning breeder, Monticule. The winning trainer, Rick Dutrow, has not been available to receive his trophy.

Albarado up by seven in jockey race

Unlike the hotly contested trainers' race, it looks like Robby Albarado has all but sewn up the jockey title, while Ken and Sarah Ramsey have built a comfortable lead among owners.

Albarado, seeking his first Churchill riding title, brings a 64-57 margin over Miguel Mena into Wednesday action, while the Ramseys, who have won or tied for a record 12 previous titles at Churchill, lead Maggi Moss by a 17-12 count.

Eye-popping times in two sprints

Two seasoned racehorses ran extremely fast in romping to recent victories at Churchill.

Bold Start, a 5 1/2-length winner of a 6 1/2-furlong race Friday, went in 1:14.91 to earn a 101 Beyer Speed Figure. Rogue Scholar won by six lengths when getting six furlongs Saturday in 1:08.45 for a 109 Beyer.

* Macho Again, second in the Preakness and fifth in the Belmont Stakes, had his first workout since the Belmont when he breezed a half-mile in 51 seconds Saturday morning. Trainer Dallas Stewart has said the Jim Dandy at Saratoga is a possible next start for the colt.

* Indian Chant, winner of the May 31 Aristides at Churchill in his last start, has been confirmed by Amoss for the Grade 2 Smile Sprint Stakes on the July 12 Summit of Speed program at Calder. Indian Chant has won 9 of 23 career starts and $471,823.

* Jockey Jordan Springer was a winner with just her second mount since returning from a layoff of nearly eight months when she booted home Geri's Kid in the eighth race Friday. Springer said she will head to Southern California after the Churchill meet ends to be a free-lance exercise rider at Del Mar.

* There have been 15 dead heats for purse money at the meet, but the first for win came Sunday when the photo-finish camera could not separate Canali and Ready's Rocket after the second race.

* Officials at Ellis Park in Henderson, Ky., continue to make preparations for the opening of the 36-day meet Friday. Racing at Ellis will overlap with Churchill for three days, from Friday through Sunday.

* Mena and Jesus Castanon both will ride at Presque Isle Downs after Churchill ends, said Steve Elzey, the agent who represents both jockeys.

* With Friday being the Fourth of July, Churchill has shifted first post for the Thursday card to 2:45 p.m. Eastern. Fridays normally had been the day for twilight programs.

* The Churchill infield will be open Saturday, with a classic car show and other activities on the agenda.