05/22/2001 11:00PM

Day and 'Rock' looking for a hit


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - As Pat Day nears yet another career milestone, he continues about his business in customary fashion, seemingly oblivious to the enormity of the feat at hand.

Into the Wednesday card at Churchill Downs, Day, 47, was only 14 away from 8,000 wins, something achieved by only two jockeys in North American racing history: Bill Shoemaker, who won 8,833 races, and Laffit Pincay Jr., who passed Shoemaker in December 1999 and since has surpassed 9,000.

On Friday evening, Day will proceed toward the landmark when getting a leg up on favored Rock and Roll in the ninth-race feature at Churchill Downs.

Considering the prodigious rate at which he has been winning this spring, it would not be surprising if Day hit the milestone sometime this weekend - although Churchill officials surely would prefer if he could do it by Sunday, since Day is scheduled to ride Monday at Belmont Park. Traditionally, the likely favorite in the Met Mile, is his top mount that day.

Rock and Roll, on whom Day won the 1999 Churchill Downs Handicap, clearly could help Day inch ever closer to 8,000. Trained locally by assistant Ralph Nicks for his New York-based boss, Bill Mott, Rock and Roll drew the rail in a field of six older horses entered in the $62,400 feature, a 1 1/16-mile allowance. Rock and Roll, an earner of over $700,000 for Jenny Craig and Madeleine Paulson, was scratched from a Wednesday turf race to occupy this more favorable spot.

Rock and Roll carries co-highweight of 123 pounds. To his outside, the rest of the field will assemble this way: Day Trade, 118, Calvin Borel to ride; Glacial, 123, Brian Peck; Castelli Secrets, 116, Jon Court; Del Mar Danny, 118, Robby Albarado; and Connected, 120, Larry Melancon.

Day has at least two other extremely live mounts on the Friday card. In the fifth race, he will ride Rock Slide, who comes off a solid third-place finish in an entry-level allowance for trainer Neil Howard. In the eighth, he is assigned to Red's Honor, who is in peak form for Dale Romans.

Day also is named to ride in three other races on the 10-race program.

As usual, there is no turf racing carded for Friday, when twilight first post is 3 p.m. Eastern.