10/11/2005 12:00AM

Day looks back on career


LEXINGTON, Ky. - When Keeneland starts bringing back all sorts of warm and fuzzy memories Thursday for Pat Day, the recently retired jockey believes "it could be an emotional time for me."

Still, don't look for anything remotely resembling a comeback.

"I'm sure it will be sweet, going back and reliving all those fond memories we built up over the years at Keeneland," said Day. "But it's not going to make me want to put those white pants back on and climb back into the saddle."

Day, who retired in early August from his storybook 32-year riding career, is being honored with what Keeneland is calling "A Day to Remember." The daylong festivities will include question-and-answer and autograph sessions, a poster giveaway, a video tribute, and a winner's circle ceremony. Day turns 52 on Thursday.

Day said he is "unequivocally very comfortable and confident" in his decision to retire. "I truly believe that what I heard from God is the right thing to do. I have no notions of getting back into the saddle. None whatsoever."

Day has been maintaining a hectic schedule in his new role as spokesman and activist for the Racetrack Chaplaincy of America, making speeches and public appearances. Thursday morning, he will take time out from that busy schedule to make the one-hour drive from his home in the east end of Louisville to Keeneland, which he calls one of his all-time favorite racetracks.

"Keeneland is one of the - if not the - most beautiful tracks in the world," he said. "It always was one of my favorite places to run. I always considered riding there a working vacation. It was always just so nice to go over there with that wonderful atmosphere they have."

Day, who won his first Keeneland riding title at the 1981 spring meet, holds virtually all the major riding records here, including most career wins, most stakes wins, most wins at a single meet, and most riding titles. Having been so dominant for so long, it is quite understandable that he misses certain aspects of being a jockey.

"I love horses and I love people," he said. "So if there's anything I'm missing, it's the hands-on involvement with horses and the day-to-day kibitzing with pretty much everyone in the game - the horsemen, the fans, the guys in the jocks' room.

"Having said that, I have been so incredibly busy with my new ministry that I must say I have truly enjoyed being retired from riding. I haven't slowed down enough to miss much of anything. It's not like there's a big gaping hole there. I'm actually doing the same things I've done for the last 21 years," since becoming a born-again Christian, "only without the distraction of a full-time job. The Lord has very adequately filled up my life with things to do of eternal consequence."

Day, who was similarly dominant at Churchill Downs, also will be honored by the Louisville track on Nov. 12.

Churchill next stop for Sgt. Bert

Gary Montgomery has been working with racehorses since 1989, so it only took some 16 years for him to experience his greatest thrill in racing. Montgomery, 55, is the trainer of Sgt. Bert, the 4-year-old gelding who on Sunday captured the $112,800 Woodford County Stakes at Keeneland.

"Oh, this definitely was the biggest," said Montgomery, who worked with Quarter Horses from 1989-95 before moving to Thoroughbreds.

Sgt. Bert, ridden by Rafael Bejarano, is the second stakes winner for Montgomery, who runs a midsized stable at Louisville Trackside. His first, Mail Call, won the 2003 Tejano Run Stakes at Turfway Park, also with Bejarano up.

Montgomery said Sgt. Bert, owned by Fred Preuss Jr. and Gary Edelen, both of Louisville, would make his next start in an overnight stakes at Churchill Downs.

Meanwhile, Battle Won, a so-so fifth as the 3-5 favorite in the Woodford County, will proceed to the Oct. 29 Breeders' Cup Sprint to face Lost in the Fog.

"Winning was supposed to be part of the process of us getting him ready in this race," said trainer Chuck Simon. "Unfortunately, that didn't happen, but we're going to New York hoping he can benefit from this race."

Raven Run moved to a Saturday

The Raven Run Stakes, a seven-furlong race for 3-year-old fillies, was first run in 1999, but it didn't take long for the race to earn a Grade 2 ranking.

In fact, the race has attracted such quality that Keeneland opted to move it to a Saturday for the first time this year. It will be run Oct. 22, switching spots with a former Saturday feature, the Valley View, which now will be run Friday, Oct. 21.

Leave Me Alone, runaway winner of the Grade 1 Test, is among the likely starters in the Raven Run.

Racing meets football on BC Day

Central Kentucky sports fans look forward to a Saturday doubleheader every October: Keeneland in the afternoon, and a University of Kentucky football home game at night. But the only doubleheader this year will come on the final day of the meet, Oct. 29, which also happens to be Breeders' Cup Day. Keeneland will host a five-race card before leading into the Breeders' Cup simulcasts. UK hosts Mississippi State that night.