10/26/2012 2:07PM

Churchill Downs: Lanerie hopes to carry momentum into big winter at Gulfstream

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Barbara D. Livingston
Jockey Corey Lanerie will ride at Gulfstream Park instead of his customary Fair Grounds this winter.

This has been a great year for Corey Lanerie. Not only did the 37-year-old jockey dominate the spring meet when earning his first riding title at Churchill Downs, but his win total at Keeneland this fall was his most ever and he is on pace to surpass his career high in annual earnings.

The foreseeable future looks just as rosy, because if such odds were available, Lanerie would have to be considered a solid favorite to be the leading rider at the Churchill fall meet that starts Sunday. But perhaps the most notable development of his entire year is the fact he will switch his winter base from Fair Grounds to Gulfstream Park when trying to raise his national profile and to secure mounts for the major spring races for 3-year-olds.

Lanerie said in the spring that he was “about 90 percent sure” he was moving to Gulfstream for the winter. That’s now 100 percent.

“We’ve already got our places to stay and everything,” he said. “We’re committed.”

Lanerie said he will be riding for trainers such as Dale Romans, Eddie Kenneally, Ken McPeek, and Phil and Vicki Oliver while also trying to make inroads with other major outfits at Gulfstream, where the four-month meet starts Dec. 1. His move marks a departure from his beloved Louisiana, his home state and longtime winter base.

“It’s just something I feel I have to do with all the momentum I have going,” he said.

Into Friday action at Keeneland, Lanerie had 11 wins, second only to Julien Leparoux atop the jockey standings. His mount earnings this year stood at nearly $5.5 million and figures to soar past his career high of nearly $6.2 million, set in 2003.

Neck ’n Neck targets Ack Ack

Trainer Ian Wilkes said Neck ‘n Neck, winner of the Indiana Derby earlier this month, is being pointed to the Grade 3, $100,000 Ack Ack Handicap next weekend, with the Grade 1 Clark Handicap on Nov. 23 being the longer-term goal.

Wilkes did not seriously consider running the 3-year-old colt back in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, saying he needed more time to develop before trying such stout company.

The Ack Ack, a one-turn mile, will be run on a live card that will be timed to avoid conflicts with the BC simulcasts from Santa Anita. The same goes for the Saturday card and the Grade 2 Chilukki for fillies and mares.

Arroyo attempts comeback

Norberto Arroyo Jr., the longtime New York jockey who has not ridden since August 2009, is scheduled to return to riding at Churchill on Nov. 7 after being awarded a conditional license by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission.

Arroyo, 35, served about one year of a 2 1/2-year term in a New York state prison on a cocaine-possession charge. He then served six months in a military-style boot camp near Buffalo before being released. In recent months, Arroyo has been exercising horses at the Skylight training center just outside of Louisville for trainer Tommy Drury.

Arroyo has ridden 991 winners in North America in a career dating to 1999. His agent will be Scott Ward.

Pletcher returns in full force

Todd Pletcher and assistant Mike Dilger are back at Churchill with plenty of horses in Barn 34 again, having skipped a few meets at Keeneland and Churchill after maintaining a regular presence here in the spring and fall.

Through Friday at Keeneland, Pletcher not only had seven wins, but also the highest earnings total ($685,332) for any stable. Not surprisingly, for opening day at Churchill, he has entries in both of the co-featured stakes.