11/15/2011 1:11PM

Churchill Downs: Ratoath Special will try to wire turf feature


LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Trainers often dread drawing post 1, with some exceptions.

“When you’re going a mile and three-eighths, and you’ve got some speed in a paceless race, it can work in your favor,” said John Paul Pucek, who will send out the rail filly, Ratoath Special, in the turf marathon that serves as the Thursday feature at Churchill Downs.

Indeed, it appears that Robby Albarado and Ratoath Special could find themselves trying to “walk the dog,” as they say, on the front end of an oversubscribed field. Ratoath Special, a daughter of Include, led wire to wire in capturing a two-turn conditioned claiming race on the Saratoga turf this summer.

“I’m hoping the Include comes out of her,” said Pucek, who is based at the Thoroughbred training center in Lexington and will send a small string of horses to Aqueduct this winter. “This is a tougher race than when she won at Saratoga, but she’s coming into it the right way. If they let her go, she could be tough in there.”

In all, 15 fillies and mares are entered, but only as many as 10 will start, assuming the ninth of 10 Thursday races, the lone allowance of the card, remains on the turf. It’s a $48,000, first-level race around three turns.

Besides Ratoath Special, other major contenders in the nominal feature include My Perfect Light (post 5, Manny Cruz), a four-length winner here in the spring in her lone try over the Churchill turf; Kathern’s Kitten (post 7, Julien Leparoux), a late-running filly whose owners, Ken and Sarah Ramsey, and trainer, Mike Maker, have been especially hot at this meet; and All for Georgia (post 9, Jesus Castanon), a well-bred Giant’s Causeway filly with the kind of speed to keep Ratoath Special honest.

Maker, incidentally, entered the final 10-day stretch of this 21-day meet in a 9-9 tie with Steve Asmussen atop the trainer standings. Asked whether he believed he has a shot of unseating Asmussen, who has won the last five meet titles here dating to spring 2009, Maker said: “I don’t think so. I don’t know if we have the numbers.”

First post Thursday is 12:40 p.m. Eastern. Friday marks the only “Downs After Dark” program of the fall meet, with the first race going at 4:30 p.m. The lone stakes of the weekend, the Grade 3 River City Handicap, is set for Saturday.