05/26/2004 11:00PM

Cooksey gets the winner she has been looking for


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Ever since being badly injured in a spill more than a year ago, jockey Patti Cooksey had set one primary goal for herself: win at least one more race before hanging up her tack for good.

Cooksey realized that goal when she rode the 2,137th winner of her storybook career Thursday at Churchill Downs when Donner Pass drove to a one-length victory in the third race, a $15,000 maiden-claiming sprint.

"Don't ask me what I'm going to do now," an elated Cooksey said afterward. "Maybe ride to the end of the meet," July 4. "I'll wait to make a decision at least until then."

Cooksey, now 46, fractured both legs in the April 12, 2003, spill at Keeneland, including a severe break in her left femur. Those injuries came not long after she returned from recuperating from a September 2001 mastectomy necessitated by breast cancer.

The Thursday victory was her first since the month before the Keeneland spill. She noted with some irony that the horse she was riding when she was injured at Keeneland, Ide Rather Not, was the same horse who carried her to her last victory, in March 2003 at Turfway Park.

"It's been a long time between wins," said Cooksey, who had had just eight previous mounts since returning from her latest injury late in the Turfway winter-spring meet. She had not won a Churchill race since the 2000 spring meet.

"These are like little pick-me-up, scratchy mounts that I'm scraping up," she said. "I'll be honest: It's been tough. In order to get back and get through that apprehension, you have to ride more than one or two a week like I have been."

Cooksey, a native of Youngstown, Ohio, has enjoyed a career filled with notable milestones and awards. Her lifetime victory total is second only to that of Hall of Famer Julie Krone among females. She became just the second woman, after Diane Crump, to ride in the Kentucky Derby when she guided So Vague to an 11th-place finish in the 1984 running. She was the first female to ride in the Preakness when Tajawa ran sixth in 1985.

Donner Pass, a second-time starter owned and trained by Ken Gregory Sr., returned $8.40 as third choice in a field of nine. The win was the first at Churchill for Gregory, a former longtime Standardbred trainer.

Balllingary on for Louisville Handicap

Trainer Laura de Seroux has informed Churchill officials from California that Ballingarry, winner of the Grade 1 Canadian International in 2002, will run Monday in the $100,000 Louisville Handicap, the third and last Grade 3 stakes scheduled here this weekend. A mid-sized field of older turf horses is likely for the 1 3/8-mile Louisville.

The Sunday feature, the $150,000 Dogwood Breeders' Cup Stakes at 1 1/16 miles, is expected to get six or seven 3-year-old fillies, including Ender's Sister, Miss Coronado, Oneofacat, and Stellar Jayne.

Battle Won may ship to Belmont

Trainer Chuck Simon said his recent acquisition Battle Won may run next in the True North Handicap on the June 5 Belmont Stakes undercard in New York. An alternate spot would be the Aristides Handicap at Churchill June 19, said Simon.

Simon said Pat Day would ride Battle Won if he starts in the True North. Battle Won captured a May 19 allowance race in impressive style in his first start for Simon, who purchased the colt privately for Jay Manoogian.

* Jockey Rafael Bejarano has appealed a five-day suspension that was scheduled to begin Saturday. Bejarano, who came into Thursday tied with Day for leading rider at the meet, was suspended for a riding infraction aboard Im a Dixie Girl in the fourth race Sunday. The horse was disqualified from fourth to fifth.

* Jockey Tony D'Amico recently hired Jerry Hissam as his agent. Hissam has worked as agent for Calvin Borel for 14 years and will continue in that role.

* Nearly a week after it happened, trainer Tom Proctor was still reliving the wicked beat that his filly Indy Groove incurred when beaten a nose last Friday by Cloakof Vagueness in a Churchill allowance.

"I had to drive all the way to Chicago that night to check on my other horses," said Proctor. "Boy, did that make it a long, long drive. I chewed on the steering wheel the whole way."