05/10/2009 11:00PM

Churchill to request four-day race week

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Adam Coglianese/NYRA
Capt. Candyman Can will make his first start since the Bay Shore in the Matt Winn Stakes.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Churchill Downs officials intend to ask the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission on Tuesday to allow the track to reduce the racing schedule at its current spring meet from five to four days per week as a result of chronic short fields resulting from an insufficient number of entries.

Churchill will ask the commission at its regularly scheduled meeting in Lexington for permission to drop Wednesdays from the schedule, leaving a Thursday-through-Sunday race week through the end of the meet, July 5. The change could become effective as early as May 20.

Rick Hiles, president of the Kentucky division of the Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, said horsemen's representatives have been discussing the proposed change with track management and are not in opposition.

"We've talked with management, and if we don't agree to cut the days, they'd have to cut purses about 20 percent anyway," said Hiles. "You can't expect people to keep coming out and supporting your business if all you're giving them is four- and five-horse fields. You've got to do what you've got to do."

Churchill general manager Jim Gates said Sunday afternoon: "All options are on the table, but nothing is concrete at this point in time," adding neither he nor any Churchill official could comment further on the matter.

Like many tracks in North America, Churchill is being adversely affected by myriad negative economic conditions. Since the meet began April 25, racing at the 12-day-old spring meet generally has been marked by subpar fields, both in terms of quality and quantity. On several occasions last week, the racing office was forced to cut one race a day because of lagging entries.

Churchill does not release business figures, but Hiles said a clear inference can be drawn that handle is down substantially because of the measures being proposed.

Meanwhile, the horse shortage spells particularly ominous news for officials at Ellis Park, the Henderson, Ky., track where a 23-day meet is scheduled to start in July. As of this weekend, only about 70 horses were on the grounds at Ellis, where purse levels suffer in comparison to competing regional tracks such as Indiana Downs, Presque Isle, and Mountaineer Park.

Parade Clown meets elders in allowance

Back-to-back allowance races highlight what could be the final Wednesday card of the meet.

In the eighth race, a $52,700 second-level mile for older horses, Parade Clown will face older horses when exiting a series of stakes for 3-year-olds. The gray Distorted Humor colt won the WEBN Stakes at Turfway Park in February.

In the seventh, a $50,200 entry-level route for 3-year-olds, Au Moon looks like the favorite for trainer David Carroll and jockey Julien Leparoux.

Both races drew fields of seven. First post for the nine-race program is the usual 12:45 p.m. Eastern.

Capt. Candyman Can set for Matt Winn

The first Churchill stakes race since the Kentucky Derby is set for Saturday, when Capt. Candyman Can will make his first start since he captured the April 18 Bay Shore Stakes when he goes postward in the $100,000 Matt Winn Stakes.

The Matt Winn, like the Grade 3 Bay Shore, is run at seven furlongs. Among the other 3-year-olds expected is Cash Refund, a Steve Margolis-trained colt who earned a 110 Beyer Speed Figure in winning an opening-day allowance in just his second career start.

The Matt Winn will anchor the live Saturday program, although the Preakness simulcast will be the primary attraction for many fans.

* Bold Start lived up to favoritism in the Sunday feature when getting a perfect trip under Robby Albarado and going on to a two-length triumph over Vicarian. Bold Start, a 5-year-old horse trained by Ken McPeek, returned $4.60 after finishing six furlongs in 1:09.69.

Estimated attendance was 16,000, many of them families celebrating Mother's Day.

* Three winning 50-cent tickets were sold on the early pick four Sunday, with each returning $16,758.05. With $62,314 in the pick-four pool, longshots dominated the sequence (races 1-4), with the winners coming in at odds of 6-1, 17-1, 15-1, and 22-1.