11/06/2003 12:00AM

Day, McGaughey together again

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Pat Day and Shug McGaughey have been teaming to win major stakes races for more than 20 years, with the 1983 Spinster Stakes at Keeneland marking their first notable success.

"For the Bell family," Day said between races Thursday at Churchill Downs, recalling his ride on Try Something New for the Jonabell Farm of John Bell III.

McGaughey departed Kentucky long ago for New York, but he and Day have had many opportunities since then to hook up, most notably in the halcyon years of Easy Goer. Their collaborations normally have taken place outside of Kentucky, but occasionally a horse like Yell ships into town, and it's like old times again.

"There have been many fond memories," said Day.

Thousands of horseplayers will be hoping to build their own fond memories when the 3-year-old filly Yell takes heavy backing in the Saturday feature, the Grade 2 Churchill Downs Distaff. Day is confident Yell will be able to register a second straight victory after having guided her to a sharp score in the Raven Run at Keeneland last month.

"She was most impressive last time out," said Day. "After I wheeled her outside of horses, she really, really accelerated nicely and won going away. I'm anticipating a similar performance Saturday, and hopefully victory."

Cooksey planning comeback

Patti Cooksey will be conspicuous by her absence from the third annual Female Jockey Challenge on Saturday night at Hoosier Park. Cooksey, who competed in the event last year, is in the final few weeks of a physical rehabilitation program that began shortly after she broke her femur in a frightening spill at Keeneland on April 12.

"I've decided that I'm going to come back, at least until I can leave the winner's circle," said Cooksey. "I'd hate to think that my last ride ended up with me getting scooped off the dirt at Keeneland."

Cooksey, 45, said she "still has some little twinges to get out" but that she should be ready to return in December or January at Turfway Park, where she perennially has excelled. "At least that's where the opportunities will be more plentiful," she said. "How long will I ride? After I win, I might just say, 'See ya later.' Or I might say that I'm going to keep going a while longer. I don't know."

During a 24-year career, Cooksey has ridden 2,136 winners, second only to Julie Krone among female jockeys in North American racing history.

Talley getting feel for the land

Jeff Talley knows something about dirt, and not just because he became a horse trainer last November.

Talley, 42, has owned a landscaping business in Louisville for 15 years, during which time he became increasingly interested in racing. He bought his first horse four years ago, and as his day-to-day responsibilities with his company diminished, he decided to try training.

Wednesday, Talley watched in delight as Strike Commander drew off to a 3 1/4-length triumph in the second race, a $15,000 starter-allowance sprint. Talley, who now has three other horses in his stable at the Trackside training center, claimed Strike Commander for a mere $5,000 last December.

"That was my second win," said Talley, who has had 16 starters. "There's not a lot you can compare to winning. It's something else."

Sellers returns from brief illness

Veteran jockey Shane Sellers returned to action Thursday after being out for two racing days. Sellers, who was sidelined for most of two years after suffering a serious knee injury in December 2000, had a first-time bout with the gout, a painful form of arthritis that affects the lower joints.

"It made him forget about his knee," said Fred Aime, Sellers's agent.

Surgery for Strength and Honor

Strength and Honor, 10th and last as the 8-5 favorite in a $46,400 allowance here Wednesday, is scheduled to undergo throat surgery, said trainer Chuck Simon.

"It's the second time for him," said Simon.

Strength and Honor faded as the race was won by Deer Lake, whom Simon claimed for owner Steve Fugitte for $62,500. Fugitte won a two-way shake with owner Billy Hays.

Day leading the pack

Day rode Deer Lake and two other winners here Wednesday, giving him a four-win lead over Cornelio Velasquez and John McKee through eight of 27 programs. Day, who in a rare occurrence was beaten for the jockey title here by Velasquez last spring, has won 33 Churchill riding titles.

Borel escapes injury

Jockey Calvin Borel escaped serious injury during the ninth race Wednesday when his mount, Finally Here, broke down approaching the quarter pole. Finally Here, trained by Tom Amoss, had to be euthanized. A 3-year-old Maryland-bred filly, Finally Here won two minor stakes in an eight-race career and had most recently finished second in the Maryland Million Distaff at Laurel.

* Jockey Jon Court took off all mounts before the second race Thursday after taking ill.

* Besides Medaglia d'Oro, who figures as a strong favorite, the Nov. 28 Clark Handicap is shaping up with at least five other older horses: Tenpins, M B Sea, Quest, Cappuchino, and Gander.

* Steve Morguelan, the trainer who underwent successful surgery last spring for pancreatic cancer, continues to make remarkable progress toward a full recovery, said Morguelan's physician, Dr. David Richardson. "He's looking forward to coming back to work early next spring," said Richardson.

* Dale Romans, who has won or tied for the training title at the last four Churchill spring meets, will be the guest of honor Nov. 15 at the Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners annual awards dinner. Romans has been named the winner of the 2003 Warner L. Jones Jr. Horseman of the Year Award. For tickets, call (502) 458-5820.

* Saturday is Metro United Way Day at Churchill. Fans can pick up free admission passes at Thornton's gas stations and BB&T bank branches. Churchill will donate $5 to the United Way for each redeemed pass.