09/06/2002 12:00AM

Connelly: 'Chicken one day, feathers next'


FLORENCE, Ky. - Bill Connelly has been on the racetrack more than a quarter-century, so he knows that change can come at a moment's notice. Connelly wore a big grin on his face Wednesday night after sending out his third straight winner on the opening program of the Turfway Park fall meet, yet he was in the most somber of moods the following evening.

That's because Red Brandi Miss, a 5-year-old mare that Connelly calls "one of my favorite horses," fractured both sesamoid bones in a foreleg when breaking down near the half-mile pole during the third race. Although Red Brandi Miss survived the injury, Connelly is proceeding with great caution.

"She knows how to take care of herself," Connelly said. "In most cases, you have to put the horse down because they usually won't stand for any treatment. But it's like she knows she's hurt, and she's going to help us any way she can. Even with all that, it's a longshot" for her to survive.

Connelly said no surgery will be performed. "We're hoping the bones will fuse together over time," he said. "That's about the only way to go about this. You've always got the chance of laminitis developing and other dangers, so we're a long way from being out of the woods."

Red Brandi Miss, who was in for a $13,500 claiming tag, had four wins and four seconds from 12 previous starts for Connelly and the three-man partnership who own her. Connelly said the mare "is a neat horse with a lot of personality, which is what makes something like this so tough to take."

The previous evening was easy to take. Connelly sent out Jenny's Prospector ($22.80) to win the fourth race, Slew Roots ($7.20) to win the sixth, and Whereisspringfield ($10.40) to win the eighth.

"Chicken one day, feathers the next," said Connelly, 46.

In 1975, soon after graduating high school, Connelly went to work as a groom at Gulfstream Park in south Florida. He never left the track, taking out his trainer's license in 1980. Since then, he has become one of the steadiest trainers in Kentucky by winning at a solid percentage at Keeneland and Churchill Downs - but he seems to do his best at Turfway, where he perennially ranks in the top five in wins.

Opening night "was at least the third time I've won three races on a card at Turfway," he said. "One of the first years I was training, I won three and also won another race either at Beulah or Thistledown. I've been around so long I can't remember."

Kentucky Cup prospects

Fields are beginning to take shape for the ninth annual Kentucky Cup, the five-race series to be run here next Saturday (Sept. 14). Among the prospects for the richest race, the $400,000 Kentucky Cup Classic, are Dollar Bill, Tenpins, and There's Zealous.

The other races in the series are the $200,000 Turfway Breeders' Cup, the $150,000 Kentucky Cup Sprint, and the $100,000 Kentucky Cup Juvenile and Juvenile Fillies, each worth $100,000. The Juvenile has been particularly productive the last two years, having been won by Point Given in 2000 and by Repent last year.

Special first post on Kentucky Cup day is noon Eastern. Saturday also is the first day of the seven-day meet at Kentucky Downs, the all-grass track located in Franklin, Ky. Several Kentucky Downs races will be interspersed into the Turfway card.

* Sunday will be the first of four consecutive Sundays on which Churchill Downs Inc. will host handicapping contests at all of their wagering facilities. The contests will be held at all CDI tracks and wagering facilities. Players must become members of CDI's player-reward program, the Twin Spires Club. Besides various cash prizes, four spots also are on the line for the $200,000 DRF/NTRA National Handicapping Championship in Las Vegas in January.