07/24/2008 11:00PM

Churchill not rushing hunt for new caller


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Churchill Downs officials said Friday they have no set timeline in their search to replace the late Luke Kruytbosch as the track's race-caller when live racing resumes Oct. 26.

"We're just now starting that process," said Churchill spokesman John Asher. Track management has not received any calls from prospective race-callers, said Asher, "I think because they've just wanted to show their respect for Luke. But I imagine the activity will pick up pretty soon, and obviously we're familiar with the landscape out there.'

Kruytbosch, who called the last 10 runnings of the Kentucky Derby on the track's in-house public-address system as the regular race-caller since 1999, died July 14, apparently of a heart attack, near Ellis Park, where he also had called since 1999.

A 50-minute memorial service for Kruytbosch was held Monday at Churchill. Among the speakers were Asher, retired jockey Pat Day, chaplain Ken Boehm, and Kruytbosch's father, Carlos, who lives in Switzerland. Also, several video tributes were played for a crowd estimated at 400.

Meanwhile, officials at Ellis in Henderson, Ky., announced Thursday that Bill Downes will replace Kruytbosch, effective Aug. 6. Two other tracks where Kruytbosch had called regularly, Turf Paradise and Kentucky Downs, have yet to announce who will replace him.

Ellis numbers said to be good

Ellis officials said last week that they intend to wait until the meet ends Sept. 1 to release aggregate business figures, but the beginning of the 39-day meet "has been very good," according to Mark Geary, director of development, who estimated that daily ontrack attendance and handle, along with all-sources handle, are "up in the 10-percent range" over comparable 2007 figures.

"We're very happy with how the meet has gone so far," said Geary, the son of the track's owner, Ron Geary.

Geary said Ellis will not try to make up the five racing days lost at the beginning of the meet, which had been scheduled to start July 4 but instead began July 11 because of a disagreement between the track and horsemen regarding revenue splits on account wagering. In lieu of makeup days, the track is tacking on an extra race or two "pretty much whenever we can on weekend cards," said Geary. "I don't know if we'll be able to get 12 races every Saturday, but if we can make the races, we'll do it."

Newcomer looms over feature

The Sunday feature at Ellis is a second-level $24,000 allowance matching eight fillies and mares at a mile on the turf. Lady Chace, a recent arrival from the East Coast, may bring a sizable class edge to the race after competing in four stakes from six starts to begin her career.

Steve Margolis is the new trainer of Lady Chace, a 3-year-old Tiznow filly whose only forays outside of the stakes ranks resulted in easy victories in maiden and first-level allowance races. This will be her first try on grass.

Eleven races are carded for Sunday, with the feature slotted as race 10. First post is 12:40 p.m. Central.

Scholarship day returns

Sunday is the annual College Scholarship Day at Ellis. After every race, a $1,000 scholarship will be raffled off among registered attendees.

The scholarship raffle is a regular occurrence at Ellis, Turfway, and Keeneland. The events are co-sponsored by the host tracks and the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association.

Kentucky Downs to hold qualifier

For the first time in its history, Kentucky Downs will host a handicapping contest with berths in the Daily Racing Form/National Thoroughbred Racing Association National Handicapping Championships on the line. The contest will be held Sept. 20 and will focus solely on seven races to be run that day at the turf-only track in Franklin, Ky.

Three berths in the handicapping finals next January in Las Vegas, along with $10,300 in prize money, will be up for grabs. The contest will be limited to 200 players. The entry fee is $150. More information is available from the track at (270) 586-7778 or kentuckydowns.com.