10/19/2003 11:00PM

Crafty Shaw gets to try turf again


LEXINGTON, Ky. - The only time that trainer Pete Vestal ever ran Crafty Shaw in a grass race was last year at Belmont Park, where the horse was coming off a lengthy layoff.

"It was a very unfair assessment of his ability," said Vestal.

Crafty Shaw faded after setting the pace that day, but he will get another try on turf as the probable favorite in Wednesday's feature at Keeneland.

"When he's fresh like he was that day, he's really, really hard to rate, because he's such a tough old horse," Vestal said. "We're in a lot better situation with him now, coming off that win at Turfway," in the Sept. 20 Fall Championship.

"I'm trying to duck the big boys until the Clark Handicap," the trainer said, "so I thought this spot would be just right for him." The Clark is next month at Churchill Downs.

Crafty Shaw, a 5-year-old horse owned by Oaklawn Park chairman Charles Cella, will be ridden by Pat Day in a full field for the eighth of nine races Wednesday at Keeneland. Crafty Shaw, who is about three-quarters of the way to being a millionaire, will race again next year at 6, said Vestal.

"We'd all very much like to get him past the million mark," he said.

The Wednesday feature, a $60,000 allowance at 1 1/16 miles, is restricted to horses who have not won a race "other than" on turf this year. It drew several accomplished runners whose main feats have come over turf, most notably Dr. Kashnikow, winner of back-to-back runnings (2001-02) of the River City Handicap at Churchill.

Two other allowances (races 7 and 9) also are carded for Wednesday, when first post is 1:15 p.m. Eastern.

Weekend cards close out meet

After Wednesday, three programs remain at the 17-day fall meet, and all will include a stakes race: the $100,000 Jessamine County on Thursday, the $100,000 Bourbon County on Friday, and the $150,000 Fayette on Saturday.

The two "county" races are for 2-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles on the turf. Tenpins, the standout Michigan-bred trained by Don Winfree, figures as a huge favorite in the Fayette.

With the Breeders' Cup simulcast dominating the agenda, just four live races will be run here Saturday. First post is 12:30 p.m. Eastern, with the first simulcast Breeders' Cup race (Distaff) coming at 1:20, between the second and third live races. A second Breeders' Cup race (Juvenile Fillies) will follow the third live race, and then the Fayette will finish out the live schedule. Gates open at 11 a.m., although drive-through wagering will open at 8.

The Kentucky Horse Park Mustang Troops, a group that teams inner-city youths with wild mustangs, will perform early Saturday at "Breakfast at the Works" and again after the last live race of the day.

Keeneland will show the University of Kentucky's football game against Mississippi State on television monitors throughout the grounds. The game will be played at nearby Commonwealth Stadium, with kickoff set for 12:30.

Churchill to open amid renovation

Churchill opens its fall meet Sunday, but Louisville-area fans can get a sneak preview of the ever-changing landscape Saturday by coming to Churchill for simulcasting. The track has announced that both Churchill and the nearby Trackside simulcast annex will be open Saturday.

Churchill is undergoing a $121 million renovation through early 2005, meaning ontrack fans may find the next three meets to be somewhat troublesome in terms of creature comforts and logistics. Demolition of the majority of the old clubhouse took place during the summer, and new construction has already begun.

The Grade 3 Ack Ack Handicap, a 7 1/2-furlong race for older horses, is the opening-day feature. Unlike at prior fall meets, when six-day weeks were the norm, Churchill will be dark on Mondays and Tuesdays except on Election Day (Nov. 4) and Veterans Day (Nov. 11). The meet runs through Nov. 29.

Fires wins race in fifth decade

When Hall of Fame jockey Earlie Fires guided Poydras to victory here Saturday, it marked the fifth straight decade that Fires has won a race at Keeneland.

Fires, 56, rode his first Keeneland winner at the 1965 fall meet. The Saturday win, his 264th at Keeneland, was his first at the track since the 1995 spring meet. Fires has more than 6,000 career wins.

* The victory by Dyna Da Wyna in the Valley View on Saturday lifted Elliott Walden out of a third-place tie on Keeneland's list of all-time stakes-winning trainers. Walden now has won 20 Keeneland stakes, one more than the late Woody Stephens. D. Wayne Lukas leads the list, with Bill Mott second.