10/28/2011 1:27PM

Churchill Downs: Kenneally aims to pick up where he left off in spring

Barbara D. Livingston
Eddie Kenneally, 45, came up one victory short of the Churchill Downs training title last spring.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Eddie Kenneally enjoyed one of the most productive meets of his 19-year training career by sending out 17 winners from 59 starters last spring at Churchill Downs, but the feat went largely unnoticed. All kinds of stuff was happening here, including a Kentucky Derby, the continuing phenomenon of night racing, an F-1 tornado, and a guy named Asmussen edging him out for the training title by one winner after having 71 more starters.

Not that it matters much to Kenneally, who in recent years has become one of the more reliable players at Churchill.

“I believe we can pick up where we left off in the spring,” said Kenneally, a 45-year-old Irishman whose early affiliations in this country were with Rusty Arnold, Tom Skiffington, and Niall O’Callaghan. “If we can do as well here this fall, that’d be very good.”

As Churchill begins its 21-day fall meet Sunday with a Stars of Tomorrow program, Kenneally, as much as anyone, is optimistic that his stable will leave here for warmer climates in four weeks with a prospect or two for the Kentucky Derby or Oaks. It happened last fall for Kenneally, when Santiva won the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes, eventually returning to be a decent sixth in the 137th Derby.

“I think we’ve got some really nice horses coming up,” said Kenneally, including three maidens who will run Sunday: Battle Hardened in the first, Wicked Night in the second, and Knight of Thunder in the 11th. Javier Castellano, the standout New York jockey, will ride all three Kenneally runners, perhaps providing a clue to how well the horses are regarded.

“They all should run well,” Kenneally said. “I’m not saying they’ll win, but they’re doing awfully well. I’m looking forward to the whole meet, because we have quite a few horses to run.”

Kenneally is one of 15 trainers with three or more starters on the Stars of Tomorrow opener. Including also-eligibles, there are 125 2-year-olds on the Sunday program.

Arnold has solid close at Keeneland

Arnold had an okay start to the Keeneland fall meet by winning with 2 of 17 starters, but the 56-year-old trainer had an outstanding second half when netting 5 wins from his next 15, including back-to-back scores Thursday with Our Delight and Sea Level Drive.

The two Thursday winners came with Jimmy Graham aboard, who also won an earlier race to give him three on the card. Unfortunately for Graham, he was on Envisioning, the odds-on favorite in the last race Thursday, when that 4-year-old colt fractured a knee in midstretch that led to him being euthanized. Graham escaped injury.

Another trainer to hit a belated stride at Keeneland was Paul McGee, who was blanked from four starts before striking Wednesday with Papaw Bodie, on Thursday with She’s Picky, and Friday with Ratatat.

The last two McGee winners are owned by the Jay Em Ess Stable, whose principal owner, Mace Siegel, died Wednesday at age 86 at his California home.

◗ Mike Puype phoned from California on Friday to report that Turbulent Descent had her final breeze toward the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint when going five furlongs in 59 seconds at Hollywood Park. Turbulent Descent, who figures as a solid favorite in the Filly and Mare Sprint, will arrive here Sunday following an early-morning charter flight.

“Everything’s a go,” Pupye said. “I couldn’t be any more satisfied with how the filly is doing.”

◗ Pluck, winner of the BC Juvenile Turf last fall, will make his return to action here Thursday in the Grade 3 Commonwealth Turf Stakes, one of six supporting stakes scheduled for Thursday through Sunday of the coming week.

A media release from Team Valor International, which owns Pluck with the Vinery, said the colt has healed from bone bruising and has been training well in Maryland with Graham Motion since late June. Pluck has not raced since his form tailed off last spring.