11/07/2008 12:00AM

Bettor hits $12K score on ticket error

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Being lucky is a lot better than being good at calling out numbers, as one longtime Churchill Downs fan discovered Thursday.

Charles "C.P." Essex bet $72 into the early pick four at Churchill, employing a $1 part-wheel strategy that intended to use Nos. 1, 3, and 7 in the second leg of the wager.

But when Essex failed to notice that he had mistakenly called Nos. 1, 4, and 7, you can probably guess what happened: No. 4, Bellicose, won the second race at a $33.20 mutuel, and Essex wound up winning half the pool, cashing for $12,044.50 before federal and state taxes. The entire pick-four pool was $29,838, with just one other $1 winning ticket sold. The No. 3 horse, Missing Sefa, ran fourth.

"The funny thing was the 3 was the longshot I really liked in the second race," said Essex, 41. "I didn't notice the ticket was wrong until it was too late."

Essex, a lifelong Louisville resident and horseplayer, has dabbled in horse ownership, employing Denis Roberson as his trainer. Roberson won the first race Thursday with Wind on the Hill ($18.80) to get Essex started on his inadvertent windfall.

"It couldn't have happened to a more loyal fan than C.P.," said Roberson.

Canela keeps on going

When two horses run off in what appears to be a ruinous duel, they invariably come staggering back to the pack.

That's precisely the sort of scenario that seemed to unfold here Thursday when Canela was hooked by longshot Revival Ridge in a $50,120 allowance at 1 1/8 miles on turf. The two opened up a huge lead on seven opponents when setting fractions of 46.88 seconds and 1:11.26.

Turning for home, Revival Ridge began to falter - but Canela didn't. Remarkably, the 5-year-old ridgling just kept motoring, winning by 5 1/4 lengths and returning $7.80 as second choice.

"That was incredible," said trainer Mike Maker. "You don't see that happen very often. This is a pretty nice horse, though, especially when you let him out. He gets pretty brave."

Canela gave Maker his meet-leading 12th win. Owned by Scarlet Stable, he earned a career-high 98 Beyer Speed Figure in running his record to 4 for 4 over the Churchill turf. A son of El Corredor, Canela has won 15 of 41 starts for four different owners, having been claimed three times.

Claiming Crown duo in rematch

In a certain respect, the annual Claiming Crown is run in a vacuum, with horses shipping from a variety of North American regions to run against each other once - and only once. After the Claiming Crown, pretty much everybody returns to their own neck of the woods, rarely to meet again.

And yet, here are Extra Exclusive and Pinecrest Inn squaring off again. The old warriors ran first and second, respectively, in the Claiming Crown Express, and more than three months later they will renew their rivalry in the fourth race Sunday at Churchill, a six-furlong starter allowance with a $15,000 purse.

"They got us up north," said David Miller, a co-owner with Kirk Stallings of Pinecrest Inn, a sharp recent winner for a $25,000 claiming tag at Keeneland. "But hopefully we'll turn the tables on them Sunday."

The Express was part of the 10th Claiming Crown series run Aug. 2 at Canterbury Park in Minnesota.

Slow stretch before meet's final week

Stakes-wise, things will slow down for a couple of weeks at Churchill before the final rush of major events closes out the meet on Thanksgiving weekend. Until then, the only two stakes scheduled are Grade 3 races on the turf: the $100,000 Cardinal Handicap, for fillies and mares, will be run next Saturday, Nov. 15, and its male counterpart, the $100,000 River City, set for the following Saturday, Nov. 22.

The meet closes with the familiar quartet of stakes: the Falls City (Nov. 27), the Clark (Nov. 28), and the Golden Rod and the Kentucky Jockey Club (Nov. 29).

Because of the way the 2008 calendar fell, the fall meet is a week longer than in some years, when its only four weeks in duration.

* Jockey Miguel Mena celebrated his birthday Thursday by winning the fifth race aboard Tis Cactus Nellie ($9.40). Mena, a Peru native who has become a mainstay of the Kentucky circuit, turned 22.

* The next day, Calvin Borel also got an appropriate birthday gift when he rode Casino Kid ($22.20) to a come-from-behind victory in the fourth race Friday. Borel, best known for his 2007 Kentucky Derby victory aboard Street Sense, turned 42.

* Tom Schneider, who for the last five-plus years had worked as an assistant general manager and vice president of guest services at Churchill, is no longer with the company. Churchill policy is not to comment on personnel being fired or laid off.

* Unlike in prior years, there is racing here on the Veterans Day holiday on Tuesday.