11/16/2011 12:50PM

Churchill Downs: Fiscal Policy tries turf under the lights


LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Churchill Downs officials initially wanted a Downs After Dark theme that had something to do with the jungle, but why not pay homage to your latest Kentucky Derby winner at the same time? Thus was born a clever “Animal Kingdom” idea that thousands of racegoers will revel in Friday evening, more than six months since a colt by the same name thundered home a winner in Derby 137.

The only Downs After Dark program of the 21-day fall meet begins at 4:30 p.m. Eastern, with the last of 11 races going at 9:36. The racing fare is adequate, if not great, with allowances scheduled on separate ends of the card as races 2 and 10.

Race 2 is the richer of the pair, a $50,000, second-level turf sprint for fillies and mares. Fiscal Policy, making her grass debut for Tom Amoss, looks as good as any of the seven entered.

“I think she might have some interest in the grass,” Amoss said earlier this week from his hometown of New Orleans, where he already is hunkered down for the winter at Fair Grounds. “She’s got the right kind of pedigree for it on her female side. We’re going to give it a whirl.”

Fiscal Policy, 3, was an easy winner of the Bassinet Stakes at River Downs at 2, but has raced just three times since then. She will be making her first start in some 3 1/2 months when breaking from post 4 under Leandro Goncalves.

Other contenders in the early co-feature include Mazucambera, upset winner of the Dixie Belle at Oaklawn Park in January, and Musical Prodigy, most recently fourth in a very tough Keeneland turf allowance.

The second co-feature is something of a curiosity that the late-nighters should enjoy: a three-turn turf race that will carry the field past the artificially lit stands a couple of times. Amoss is represented by Falling Knife, an easy winner of something of an oddball marathon on closing day of the Ellis Park meet, a 2 1/4-mile dirt race.

“Distance is his thing,” Amoss said. “The surface isn’t the main factor with him – distance is.”

The $48,000, first-level allowance is scheduled for 1 3/8 miles on turf. The race carries a $25,000 claiming option, and Falling Knife, being ineligible under the allowance conditions, is one of three in the 10-horse field entered for the tag. Other logical players include Prairie Breeze, Big Top, Get a Grip, and Pleasant Run.

Big Top, incidentally, is the only starter of the evening for Graham Motion, the trainer of Animal Kingdom. Having been sidelined by a hock injury incurred in the Belmont Stakes in June, Animal Kingdom returned to training last month at the Fair Hill training center in Maryland and is being pointed to the $10 million Dubai World Cup in March.

This is the sixth meet that Churchill has offered night racing. The first was the 2009 spring meet, when temporary lights were used. The permanent lighting system was installed in time for the 2010 spring meet. Crowds in excess of 30,000 have been commonplace at spring meets, although with low temperatures expected to dip below freezing, something on the order of 20,000 would seem a good number for Friday.

General admission for night racing is $10. A variety of special attractions are on tap, including seating upgrades in a new “Millionaires Lounge.”