04/12/2010 12:00AM

Awesome Act heads to Churchill early


Awesome Act will be taking his show on the road earlier than expected.

Initially slated to remain in New York until five days before the Kentucky Derby, Awesome Act is now scheduled to leave Belmont Park on Thursday evening and will arrive at Churchill Downs on Friday morning. Awesome Act, who won the Gotham here on March 6 before finishing third to Eskendereya in the Wood Memorial on April 3, will have his major work for the Derby next week and then likely a blowout the week of the race. Awesome Act was scheduled to breeze Tuesday at Belmont.

"It's a slightly different surface at Churchill," Wayne Tanner, the assistant to trainer Jeremy Noseda, said Monday on the change of plans. "We felt it was in his best interest to have a couple of works on that track before he runs on it. We'll get him settled in.''

Awesome Act will ship to Kentucky with his workmate Peace Town, a Maryland-bred stakes winner who most recently won a second-level allowance race at Aqueduct.

Julien Leparoux is expected to ride Awesome Act in the Derby.

Only one Sunset Friday at Belmont

Fans of the Sunset Friday cards at Belmont Park will be disappointed to learn that the track will host only one such program this year, on June 18. The post time for all other Fridays will be 1 p.m. Eastern.

For the last two years, Belmont Park has conducted Friday racing at 3 p.m. beginning the week after the Belmont Stakes. New York Racing Association officials said there was no discernible difference in handle figures between the twilight cards and the Friday cards earlier in the meet with a 1 p.m. first post.

"Candidly, looking at the numbers the last two years, they didn't seem to do much in terms of performance,'' said Hal Handel, NYRA executive vice president/chief operating officer. "They clearly hurt your simulcasting [business].''

NYRA will attempt to make the June 18 program an event. Among the activities planned is a concert by Big Shot, a popular Long Island-based Billy Joel cover band.

Handel said there would still be two Sunset cards offered at Saratoga.

Secretariat base is back

A newly engraved concrete base for the Secretariat statue was recently installed in the Belmont Park paddock. The old base was destroyed last May 20 when the horse City on Line got loose before a race and ran into it.

The statue toppled over but remained relatively intact with a few scrapes, but the pedestal was cracked into three pieces. A mahogany wooden base was later installed to hold up the statue, until the new base - complete with Secretariat's accomplishments - was finished.