04/28/2012 11:53AM

Churchill Downs: Pair of allowance races top rare Tuesday card


LOUISVILLE, Ky. – This week last year, Eddie Kenneally was busy talking about Santiva, the first Kentucky Derby starter of his training career, but no such business occupies him this week. The memory of Santiva running sixth in the 2011 Derby is a faded one, especially since the colt has yet to win a race since being pulled from Kenneally’s care following a distant eighth-place finish in the Belmont Stakes.

On the racetrack, life goes on, even on Tuesdays. Churchill Downs will host its first and only Tuesday card of the meet as Derby Week 2012 kicks off in earnest, and Kenneally has the filly to beat in the first of back-to-back, $55,300 allowances that pass as co-featured races. Burban, a 4-year-old by Speightstown, will make her long awaited return to action for Kenneally when facing six other filly-mare sprinters in the eighth of 10 Tuesday races.

Burban, owned by Joseph Sutton, finished second to the eventual Grade 1 winner Groupie Doll in her career debut here last June before closing out the 2011 spring meet on July 4 with a maiden romp.

“She came up with some minor issues, and we just decided to stop on her and give her all the time she needed,” said Kenneally, who has a 30-horse string based at Churchill and another 20 at Belmont Park. “She came back to me at Palm Meadows this winter and has really trained well. She has no problems now; she’s ready to go.”

Although he lacks a Derby runner, Kenneally will be busy both Oaks and Derby Days with stakes horses, with the unbeaten Dame Marie in the Edgewood on Friday and Heavenly Landing in the Churchill Distaff Turf Mile on Saturday.

Among the chief opposition for Burban in her comeback spot, a first-level allowance at six furlongs, are Fontane, a seven-length winner versus maiden-claimers in her most recent start at Fair Grounds for David Carroll, and Song Girl, winner of a Santa Anita starter-allowance in her last start for Michael Ann Ewing.

Thirty minutes later, filly-mare sprinters also will vie under a first-level allowance condition in Race  9, albeit at five furlongs on the turf. This one looks wide-open among the 10 entered, with Jealousofmyboogie, Little Miss Muffet, Walker Bay, Grace Abounds, and Granny Calling all likely to take a decent share of the wagering action. Of those, Grace Abounds might be a sleeper, getting Rafael Bejarano following a series of sharp drills at the High Pointe training center for veteran trainer Walt Bindner.

The return of Bejarano to his old stomping grounds is a temporary one, as the one-time Churchill kingpin joins the likes of Garrett Gomez, Corey Nakatani, and others in riding here this week before leaving following Derby 138 on Saturday.

Unlike in many prior years, there no longer are stakes races during the lead-in days of Derby week, with Churchill officials having decided to pack the Friday and Saturday cards with six stakes each.