02/03/2006 1:00AM

Butler in pursuit of 1,000th win


Among his many racetrack mishaps and injuries, Dean Butler once spent three days on a respirator after a spill at Monmouth Park on June 28, 2000.

"They said I was dead when they came and got me off the racetrack," said Butler. "It ended up being a bad concussion. I've had about eight of them."

Throw in several back fractures, knee chips, and a gruesome leg fracture that required six months' down time and the insertion of a rod and screws, and you might think that Butler has had his fill of riding racehorses.

But no. As Butler, 34, approaches the 1,000-win milestone, he said: "Oh, yeah, it's been worth it. Of course it has. I've wanted to be a jockey since I was 5 years old, growing up in Saratoga. I went to the races all the time with my dad, and I saw these beautiful animals with these little guys on them, and I tugged on my dad's pants and said, 'That's going to be me one day.' I consider myself very lucky to be able to do what I've always wanted to do."

Butler rode two winners Wednesday night at Turfway Park, giving him 992 in a career that started 0 for 21 in 1992. In 1993, however, Butler quickly hit his stride by winning 102 races as an apprentice, and after spending nearly a decade on the New Jersey and surrounding circuits, he moved to Kentucky about four years ago and has been content to settle down. He and the former LeAnn Rhone, daughter of Midwest trainer Bernell Rhone, were married last June.

Butler, who is represented by the agent known as only Clarence, said he hopes he hits the 1,000 mark in reasonably quick order. "Sometimes you see it drag on for some guys, but hopefully we'll stay on a little bit of a roll and get there quick enough," said Butler.

Troilo needs second knee surgery

Veteran jockey Bill Troilo was disappointed to learn last week that he will require his second knee surgery in a year and will miss at least several months of riding.

"This came at such a bad time," said Troilo, who will undergo surgery Feb. 17 to repair a torn meniscus. "I was doing good, winning races. But the pain got so bad I couldn't take it anymore."

Troilo initially believed the problem was his back, but a magnetic resonance imaging test revealed that the knee was causing pain to shoot up through his back. Troilo, 44, was in third place in the Turfway standings before being sidelined. He also underwent knee surgery last February.

Tight race for top trainer

While apprentice Julien Leparoux is thoroughly dominating the Turfway jockey standings, the trainers' race presents quite a contrast. Going into the Friday card, Greg Foley had sent out nine winners, followed by Paul McGee with eight, Wayne Bearden with seven, and three trainers with six apiece.

Leparoux, 22, has taken the early lead atop the North American jockey standings by winning 55 races through Thursday night. His total is nearly triple the 19 wins posted by his closest pursuer atop the Turfway standings, Willie Martinez.

* Churchill Downs Inc. launched a redesigned website Friday to improve communications with company shareholders and the news media. The new site is churchilldownsincorporated.com.