08/05/2003 11:00PM

Bare Necessities heads shipper

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HENDERSON, Ky. - Bare Necessities arrived Tuesday from Southern California and figures as a solid favorite when she runs Saturday in the annual highlight of the Ellis Park meet, the Grade 3 Gardenia Handicap.

Bare Necessities will be the starting highweight at 119 pounds in the $200,000 Gardenia, the only graded race at Ellis. Track officials are expecting a field of at least eight fillies and mares for the 1 1/8-mile race.

Bare Necessities, a 4-year-old gray filly owned by Iron County Farms, most recently ran third, beaten 2 1/2 lengths, behind superstar Azeri in the June 21 Vanity at Hollywood Park. Trainer Wally Dollase sent his daughter and assistant, Aimee, to oversee the handling of Bare Necessities at this western Kentucky track.

"I needed to run the filly somewhere," Wally Dollase said Wednesday from his Santa Anita training base. "She's a good shipper, has a good mind, and this fits into our schedule real well. She'll run one more time after this, then we'll look at the Breeders' Cup."

Rene Douglas, the Arlington Park kingpin who rode in Southern California for several years, will be in from Chicago to ride Bare Necessities. In his only previous ride aboard the filly, Douglas won the Grade 3 Sixty Sails Handicap at Hawthorne in late April.

The Gardenia typically attracts a handful of shippers from around the United States. Besides Bare Necessities, other definite starters from outside Kentucky include Lakenheath from Illinois, Stormy Frolic from Florida, and Peaceful Place from Texas.

With weights and known rider assignments, the rest of the Gardenia field is So Much More, 115, Larry Melancon; Desert Gold, 114, Rafael Bejarano; Lakenheath, 114, Jon Court; Lead Story, 114, Calvin Borel; Stormy Frolic, 114, no rider; Peaceful Place, 110, Jose Martinez Jr.; and Achnasheen, 109, Dean Butler.

Three others are listed as possible starters: Curious Conundrum, Reason to Talk, and Barney's Mistress. Entries were to be drawn Thursday.

The Gardenia will be the highlight of an 11-race Saturday card. Television Games Network will showcase the Gardenia as its "Spotlight Race" for Saturday.

At least one offer for track

Easily the most significant business news concerning Ellis Park within the last year was an announcement by its parent company, Churchill Downs Inc., that the track is for sale.

Although Churchill has not revealed any details about outside parties expressing interest in buying the track, at least one person contacted the company with a preliminary offer: Mike Pegram, the prominent horse owner who grew up in nearby Princeton, Ind.

Churchill's chief operating officer, John Long, said Wednesday that "there is no new news" concerning a sale.

Two down in spill

Jockeys Greta Kuntzweiler and Remi Gunn were thrown from their horses in a spill during the fourth race Wednesday. The extent of their injuries was not immediately known.

Gunn was immobilized for precautionary reasons and transported to nearby Henderson Methodist Hospital for observation. Kuntzweiler rose to her feet after several minutes and was fitted with a harness for a possible injury to her shoulder or collarbone.

The incident occurred at the top of the stretch when Gunn's mount, Betty Sue, appeared to clip heels and fall, after which She's Got It, ridden by Kuntzweiler, fell over Betty Sue.

Lumpkins back riding

Jason Lumpkins returned to riding Wednesday at Ellis after missing the last six days of action. Lumpkins suffered two rib fractures on his lower left side in a July 25 spill but was still able to return the next day to win the Don Bernhardt Handicap aboard Dubai Sheikh.

"I needed to take a week off," said Lumpkins. "I'm doing fine now."

Lumpkins, who rides Coax Kid in the West Virginia Derby on Saturday, was easily the leading rider last winter at Turfway Park, where he will return for the fall meet, which begins Sept. 3.

Wrecking crew busy at Churchill

The demolition of the Churchill Downs clubhouse is in full swing, as a huge claw atop a 105-foot arm began tearing down chunks of several lower floors of the clubhouse Tuesday. The demolition project is scheduled to be complete in just a few weeks, after which foundation work and other aspects of the reconstruction phase of the $121 million facelift will begin.

In the meantime, the project is on such a tight schedule that training hours on Mondays and Tuesdays at Churchill have been cut back to 4:30 to 6:30 a.m. The entire renovation project is scheduled for completion by early 2005.

Devereux a piece of history

With the death last weekend of Pat Devereux Sr., Kentucky racing lost another link to a bygone era.

A Navy veteran who took out his first trainer's license in 1948, Devereux counted legendary trainers Henry Forrest and Harry Trotsek among his closest friends. Devereux's career hit its peak in the late 1960's and early 1970's, when Royal Harmony, owned by his father, T.F. Devereux, dominated the Midwest handicap ranks.

Royal Harmony, won three straight runnings of the Fayette Handicap at Keeneland (1969 to 1971). In 1971, at age 7, Royal Harmony won the All American Handicap at Beulah Park carrying an eye-popping 143 pounds. "They don't make horses like him anymore," said Pat Devereux Jr., who works as a top assistant to trainer Mark Shuman.

Devereux, 76, was buried Wednesday in his hometown of Lexington after suffering from complications from diabetes.

* The Sunday feature at Ellis is the $100,000 Ellis Park Breeders' Cup for fillies and mares. Distinctive Code, shipping in from Louisiana Downs for trainer Larry Robideaux, figures as the favorite in the six-furlong race. Sunday is "Tavern Day" at the track, when each race will be sponsored by a local tavern.

* Four apprentices have been very active at this meet: James Graham, Dallas King, Justin Shepherd, and Marcia Stortz. Into the Wednesday card, they had combined for 19 wins from 187 mounts.

* Ellis will sponsor a race on Aug. 22 to honor the late Jerry Botts, the longtime Kentucky racing official who worked at Ellis in the early 1970's.

* The Ellis race-caller, Luke Kruytbosch, will fill in at Louisiana Downs on Sept. 5 for announcer Frank Mirahmadi, who will emcee the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association dinner in Lexington that evening.