11/25/2009 1:00AM

Churchill Downs roundup

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WHO'S HOT

Julien Leparoux won four races Tuesday to take a narrow lead in the rider standings, giving him 22 winners on the meet to Calvin Borel's 21. Counting all of last week through racing Tuesday, he was 11 for 32 - good for a 34 percent win clip. This big week came despite his missing being at Churchill Downs Saturday, when he was at Hollywood Park riding American Lion to victory in the Hollywood Prevue.

Borel, meanwhile, was 9 for 43 over this stretch of six racing days.

Despite trailing in the standings entering Wednesday's card, Borel seems the more likely of the two to take home the riding title because Leparoux was to miss the final two days of the meet, on Friday and Saturday, for riding obligations in Japan.

In addition to Borel and Leparoux, Shaun Bridgmohan won at rate of more than 20 percent over the last week, going 5 for 23.

In terms of trainers, no one was hotter than trainer Steve Asmussen, who was 6 for 11 over the last week. The only other trainer to win more than two races over that stretch was Mike Maker, who went 5 for 15.

Making the most of a limited number of starters over this stretch were trainers Hal Wiggins and Wesley Ward, who both went 2 for 4.

The race for leading trainer has come down to two: Dale Romans (11 winners on the meet) and Asmussen (14 winners). With Churchill running a card entirely of 2-year-old racing on Saturday, closing day of the fall, the juvenile-rich Asmussen barn appears in a position to win.

WHO'S NOT

Israel Ocampo continued his cold riding ways over the last week of racing, going 0 for 22 over that stretch. He is now 0 for 59 at the meet.

Other riders winless with at least 10 or more mounts over the last week include John McKee (0 for 10), Jose Riquelme (0 for 12), Sal Gonzalez Jr. (0 for 10), Fernando De La Cruz (0 for 11), and Larry Sterling Jr. (0 for 10).

Among leading riders, Robby Albarado had a quiet stretch (2 for 26), as did Jon Court (2 for 29).

Of trainers with 10 or more starters, the following entered Wednesday's racing winless over the entire meet: Neil Howard (0 for 11), Mike Lauer (0 for 15), Dallas Stewart (0 for 11), Barbara McBride (0 for 13), Merrill Scherer (0 for 15), Bill Connelly (0 for 10), and Cliff Wilkinson (0 for 10).

BIZARRE RACE OF THE WEEK

Usually when a rider loses one or both of his irons and is unable to regain them, the horse will run poorly, usually at the back of the pack.

That is what made the fifth race on Tuesday so surprising. Apprentice Freddie Lenclud, aboard first-time starter Mystery Taste, lost an iron in the race, and yet his mount still was in contention to win until late. She finished fourth at 30-1 after setting the pace, beaten a 1 1/4 lengths.

It was difficult to tell if the saddle slipped, forcing the rider to lose his left iron, or if his foot simply slipped out of the iron. But the incident cost Mystery Taste dearly.

Unable to steady himself, Lenclud bounced repeatedly in the saddle from start to finish, appearing to slow his mount's momentum.

To Lenclud's credit, he continued to ride Mystery Taste out through the stretch, going to the right-handed whip.

Brittany Goes West won the race, a slow maiden $30,000 claimer for 2-year-old fillies, by racing 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:06.52.

TRACK TRENDS

As usual, Churchill played fairly over the last racing week. Over this stretch, the track was fast except last Wednesday, when it began as muddy before being upgraded to good later on the card.

Turf racing was canceled last Wednesday, and was conducted under "good" conditions Thursday. It was firm thereafter.

ON THE COMEBACK TRAIL

Denis of Cork, who ran third in the 2008 Kentucky Derby and second in the Belmont Stakes that year, continued his comeback with a half-mile breeze in 49.80 seconds Monday. Trained by David Carroll, the colt is unraced since the Belmont after having a couple of injuries.

COMING ATTRACTIONS

Saturday's closing-day card, the second of two days featuring the "Stars of Tomorrow," is all juvenile racing. The Golden Rod Stakes for 2-year-old fillies and the Kentucky Jockey Club for males are the co-featured events.

Sassy Image, winner of the Pocahontas earlier this meet, is the expected favorite for the Golden Rod, while Iroquois winner Thiskyhasnolimit is the expected headliner of the Kentucky Jockey Club. Both races are at 1 1/16 miles on the main track.

Racing then shifts to Turfway Park on Sunday, where the $50,000 Holiday Inaugural at six furlongs on the Polytrack for older fillies and mares is the opening-day feature.

WINSTAR BENCH GROWS DEEPER

American Lion, winner of the Grade 3 Hollywood Prevue, is not the only top juvenile in WinStar farm's array of talented runners.

So, too, is Drosselmeyer, who in his first start on dirt won a straight maiden race by seven lengths Nov. 18, posting a Beyer Speed Figure of 87 for a mile. A versatile son of Distorted Humor, Drosselmeyer took four starts to win his first race but always showed he was a colt of quality.

After twice hitting the board on turf in New York, he ran second over the Polytrack at Keeneland before his breakout performance on dirt at Churchill Downs.

As he has run well around two turns, and now is proven on dirt, look for him to make an impact in Florida this winter.

HORSES TO WATCH

Shimmery

Trainer: Dave England

Last race: Nov. 18, 5th

Finish: 4th by 3

Off a bit slowly and pinched back shortly after the start, she closed up the inside to reach contention in the stretch, only to be steadied late. All things considered, she did very well to be fourth. A versatile filly, she handles synthetic tracks as well as dirt and should be tough to stop next time out at Turfway, particularly if matched against $5,000 nonwinners-of-three opposition.

Sweet Gladys

Trainer: Billy Denzik

Last race: Nov. 18, 7th

Finish: 2nd by a head

Racing in a five-furlong race moved off the grass and transferred to a good main track, this filly dug a hole for herself early by breaking a couple of lengths slowly. Despite the sluggish beginning, she got in gear and was finishing strongest in the stretch, missing by a head in an entry-level allowance. She seems to want a minimum of six furlongs.

Back In Fashion

Trainer: Wally Dollase

Last race: Nov. 19, 1st

Finish: 2nd by 4 3/4

Debuting from a the rail in a strong maiden $50,000 claimer for 2-year-old fillies, this one was away a bit awkwardly but kicked into gear to finish a clear second in a strung-out field. This was a very fast race for the level, suggesting this filly can step up to the straight maiden ranks and be an immediate factor, perhaps at Fair Grounds this winter.