05/11/2004 12:00AM

Borel keeps thinking positive


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Two days after taking a frightening spill at Churchill Downs, jockey Calvin Borel was busy working horses Tuesday morning, hustling from barn to barn.

Borel, 37, hit the ground Sunday when his mount in the sixth race, Ten Sharp, fell after becoming entangled with the hind legs of Tito's Beau, the eventual second-place finisher. Borel crashed head first to the track, ahead of Ten Sharp and to the outside of the other horses in the race.

Borel was able to smile Tuesday when he said the only thing he broke were his goggles.

He has not always been so fortunate to escape injury. When he was 16, he was seriously injured in a race when his mount hopped a fence and struck a telephone pole.

He broke his elbow, punctured a lung, and was rushed into surgery to have his spleen removed. When he arrived at the hospital, "I had only a pint of blood left in me," he said.

Six months later he returned to the saddle.

His return Sunday was much quicker. Shaking himself off, Borel rode the following race. "You've got to get back at it," he said. "You have to block it out."

It has been circumstances off the racetrack that have kept Borel out of the saddle at times this year. He missed time in April because of a staph infection - especially dangerous for a person without a spleen, an organ that filters foreign organisms from the bloodstream.

Then two weeks ago, his father, Clovis Borel, died.

Despite the setbacks, Borel remains in good spirits. He said victories - such as the one he got aboard Lead Story in the Louisville Breeders' Cup - have him feeling good about this spring.

Victoire Bataille moves up to stakes

Owner David Walts laughed Tuesday morning about how his homebred filly Victoire Bataille was the worst-kept secret on the Churchill Downs backstretch when she debuted on April 24. The backside and frontside were buzzing about the filly and she was heavily bet at just over 5-2. Watts was thinking one thing: "Doggone it," he said.

Although he did not get a big price on his filly, he got what he truly wanted - a victory. She pressed the pace, easily took over on the turn, and cruised to a 2 3/4-length win.

Watts and trainer Bob Holthus have their eyes on another prize Saturday, the inaugural running of the $100,000 Open Mind Stakes at Churchill. A five-furlong turf race for 3-year-old fillies, the Open Mind perfectly suits Victoire Bataille's pedigree.

Her dam, Gen Corp Purposes, won a maiden race on grass at Fair Grounds for Watts. Her sire, Military, won the Grade 1 Oak Tree Turf Championship on turf.

Victoire Bataille, French for victory battle, will have a battle on her hands in the Open Mind when she faces winners for the first time. Anna Em, Black Escort, Dazzle Me, Movant, Prospective Saint, She's a Rebel Too, and Thisgirldontlaugh are considered probable starters by Donnie Richardson, the senior vice president of racing at Churchill Downs.

Struggling with entries

The Open Mind Stakes, a new race on the Churchill Stakes schedule this year, was designed to fill a void while not conflicting with the track's Derby Week stakes, Doug Bredar, the track's racing secretary, said.

"We thought by going with the grass angle, the race would be popular," he said. "With 28 nominations, I think it will be."

Although the Open Mind is expected to draw a medium-to-large field, entries for other races have not gone as well this meet. Two stakes - The Matt Winn and Humana Distaff - were contested with four-horse fields, and many everyday races have also come up with short numbers.

Bredar said the big-name horses the track landed for Derby Week - including Congaree, Sightseek, and Azeri - discouraged horsemen from entering against them.

"The stars of the sport come with a price," he said.

With the Derby over, last week Churchill shifted to its more traditional daily lineup of maiden, claiming, and allowance races, but ran into problems with short fields over the weekend. Of the 20 weekend races, 12 were run with seven or fewer horses.

Bredar said he has been disappointed by the limited entries in allowance races. Filling races for 2-year-olds has also been a struggle, which he partially attributed to a smaller crop of 2-year-olds caused by mare reproductive loss syndrome.

"A majority of our trainers that might have had 10, 15, 20 2-year-olds now have a slice of that," he said. "Then because of the mare syndrome, we have a lot of underdeveloped 2-year-olds that are way behind."

Entries were noticeably stronger Wednesday and Thursday, although Bredar anticipates difficult entry days in the weeks ahead.

"It's not a pretty picture," he said. "But you bob and you weave, and you get through it."