07/02/2012 1:43PM

Ellis Park notes: Cooksey taking on new role

Barbara D. Livingston
Former jockey Patti Cooksey will be one of two female stewards at the Ellis Park meet.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Retired jockey Patti Cooksey will make her debut as a steward with the start of the 29-day Ellis Park meet on Wednesday in Henderson, Ky.

Cooksey, who has worked in recent years as director of public relations for the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, will join Barbara Borden and Butch Becraft in the Ellis stewards’ stand, making for the first-ever majority of females as stewards at a Kentucky track.

Cooksey passed a steward accreditation course at the University of Louisville last November and said Monday from her racing commission office in Lexington that she has spent a considerable amount of time this spring observing the inner workings of the stewards’ offices at Keeneland and Churchill Downs. “I’m excited about taking on this new role,” she said.

Cooksey said she will continue working her regular job with the racing commission and that her steward duties are tentatively scheduled only through July, after which time a determination will be made whether she will continue to work the Ellis meet, which runs through Sept. 3. No decision has yet been made on subsequent meets, namely Turfway Park or Kentucky Downs in September.

Cooksey, 54, retired from riding in 2004 after winning 2,137 races, and at one time was the winningest female rider in North America before being passed by Julie Krone. She was the first of just two women ever to ride in the Preakness when she had the mount on Tajawa in 1985 (Andrea Seefeldt in 1994 was the other). Cooksey is still third in all-time wins among females, behind Krone (3,704) and Rosemary Homeister Jr. (2,513).

Borden has served as acting chief steward at Kentucky tracks since April 1 in the aftermath of the firing of John Veitch last November. Borden and Becraft worked the Keeneland meet with Ron Herbstreit and the Churchill meet with Rick Leigh.

Long weekend for Lopresti

Charlie Lopresti had a weekend full of travel and disappointment. Lopresti watched as Successful Dan was defeated by Fort Larned as the odds-on favorite in the Prairie Meadows Cornhusker on Saturday night. Then, after catching an early flight the next morning from Des Moines to Louisville, he drove to and from his home in Lexington, returning to Churchill to see Turallure finish a dull fourth as the odds-on choice in the Firecracker Handicap on the closing-night program Sunday over yielding turf.

Lopresti said he fears that Turallure, an earner of more than $1.15 million in 2011, “isn’t the same horse he was last year, and I can’t tell you why. I don’t know if this turf was to his liking. But you hate to keep making excuses for him, because they all had to run over the same turf.”

Business up at Churchill

Churchill does not release end-of-meet business figures, but data obtained two weeks ago through the Kentucky State Horse Racing Commission revealed that all-sources handle showed a double-digit percentage decrease for the post-Kentucky Derby segment of the meet compared with 2011 business. But handle increased so much for the Kentucky Oaks and Derby this year – combined handle for the two days of nearly $227 million was an all-time record, exceeding the 2011 total by some $24 million – that Churchill was able to increase overnight purses by 10 percent on May 28.

On the racetrack, Corey Lanerie won his first Churchill riding title with 71 wins. Dale Romans led all trainers with 23 wins, marking the ninth time he has won or shared a Churchill title. The Midwest Thoroughbreds of Richard and Karen Papiese led the owners’ standings with 15 wins.

Another Casse juvenile scores

Sky Captain capped a fine meet for the Mark Casse stable by running off to an eye-catching 10 1/4-length victory Sunday night. The win was the third with a 2-year-old here this spring for Casse, who in the meantime has unveiled several other promising juveniles at his main base of Woodbine. Overall, Casse went 9 for 41 at Churchill, with the other six wins coming from 3-year-olds.

Sky Captain, by Sky Mesa, earned a 73 Beyer Speed Figure in his win. He is owned by John Oxley, who has become a major client for Casse through his purchase of numerous young horses. Oxley is best known for winning the 2001 Derby with Monarchos.

Sellers on the mend

Shane Sellers was at the races Sunday night with his right arm in a sling, the result of the fractured right shoulder blade the veteran jockey suffered in a scary spill Friday night aboard Voodoo Daddy on the Churchill turf. Sellers is expected to miss five to six weeks with the injury before returning to the saddle at his longtime former stomping grounds of Arlington Park.

Meanwhile, Voodoo Daddy is “all sewn up and doing good” at the Rood and Riddle equine hospital in Lexington, Ky. said Terry Raymond, the Louisville T-shirt manufacturer who bred and owns the colt. “They’re trying to make sure there’s no infection. We’ll play it by ear as to whether or when we can resume his racing career.”

◗ Churchill race-caller Mark Johnson was expected to return to his native England on Tuesday night and get back into an announcer’s booth right away. “I’ll call at Kempton Park on Wednesday, Epsom on Thursday, and Sandown on Friday and Saturday,” he said. “By the time I come back in the fall, I will call at 30 different racetracks.”

Johnson, 46, called his first full Churchill meet in the spring of 2009.

◗ Wildcat Angie, a maiden-special winner at the Churchill meet, has been sold privately and is now in training with Jerry Hollendorfer at Hollywood Park, according to her original owner-trainer, John Hancock.

“We’ve got two or three more 2-year-olds that we’re hoping will win at this meet,” said Hancock, who trains year-round at Ellis. “We’re pretty loaded, I think.”