06/28/2007 11:00PM

Fahey's success has people taking notice

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - During the summers and weekends when a teenaged John Fahey 3rd was working part-time as a hotwalker for D. Wayne Lukas at Churchill Downs, his career aspiration was to be a trainer.

Today, after working seven years for Lukas and another three as an assistant to Steve Asmussen, Fahey, 29, is enjoying the pinnacle of a nascent training career, which began three years ago this month. Fahey has won seven races at the Churchill spring meet and is savoring the recognition his success has elicited among his lifelong friends, neighbors, and family members.

"I couldn't tell if people took me seriously or not, that all I wanted was to train horses," said Fahey, whose considerable stature and girth long ago earned him the nickname Big John. "I think they're looking at me a little different now. There's nothing to get their attention like winning races."

Fahey has only 14 horses in his Churchill stable but intends to add more. On May 28, in a racing rarity, he claimed three horses from the same race, and he has the clientele to acquire more. Besides being highly active in the claiming ranks, Fahey also owns the distinction of being the trainer of the only horse with as many as three victories at the meet: Kenai River, who won easily here June 22 to go 3 for 4 at the meet.

Fahey not only is striving to follow in the footsteps of Lukas, a Hall of Famer, and Asmussen, who surely will be one someday, but also Mike Maker, who was Lukas's foreman and assistant during much of the time that Fahey served as a stablehand. Maker, who went out on his own in 2003, also is having an exceptional Churchill spring meet, having won with 15 of 41 starters, many of them owned by the powerhouse stable of Ken and Sarah Ramsey.

When both Fahey and Maker were working for Lukas, Charismatic won the 1999 Derby at 31-1. When Maker, who has a dry sense of humor, was leading the colt back around the clubhouse turn after the race, a fan yelled to him: "Aw, that bum will never win another race!"

To which Maker responded, "He doesn't have to."

Curlin set for breeze

Tiz Wonderful, the unbeaten colt being geared up for a return by Asmussen, breezed five furlongs in 1:01.60 Thursday over a fast Churchill track while remaining under consideration for the July 29 Jim Dandy at Saratoga.

Meanwhile, the biggest star in the barn, Curlin, is scheduled to breeze Monday at Churchill, marking his first workout since he finished second to Rags to Riches in the June 9 Belmont Stakes. Curlin is being pointed to the Aug. 5 Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park.

In other recent works, Ketchikan, the Louisiana Derby runner-up, went an easy-half mile Wednesday in 53.20 seconds, and Change Up, winner of the Pocahontas Stakes here last fall, had her first workout since knee surgery, going three furlongs in 36.20 seconds on Monday.

Ketchikan, trained by Al Stall Jr., has been sidelined since early April, when the colt was found to have a cannon bone bruise that did not require surgery. "We just gave him the time he needed," said Stall.

Change Up has not raced since undergoing surgery for a knee chip early this year. The 3-year-old filly, owned by the Klein family of Louisville and trained by Steve Margolis, has won 3 of 6 starts.

Asmussen closes in on record

Asmussen drew nearer to the record for most wins at a Churchill spring meet by winning with both of his starters Thursday and his first starter Friday.

Thursday, Tres Dream ($9) rallied to win an entry-level allowance for 3-year-old fillies, after which Gaff ($3.20) overpowered six rivals in easily capturing the featured eighth race, a classified allowance at five furlongs on the turf. Shaun Bridgmohan was aboard both winners.

After the first race Friday, which Asmussen and Bridgmohan won with Royal Music ($3.80), the trainer had 40 winners, three short of the record set last year by Dale Romans. After Friday, seven days remained at the meet.

Bashford Manor, Debutante share bill

Asmussen trains nine of the 31 nominees to the $150,000 Bashford Manor Stakes, the Grade 3 race for 2-year-olds that will be co-featured next Saturday, July 7, with its sister race, the $100,000 Debutante Stakes. Asmussen said Kodiak Kowboy and Hargill are most likely to run in the six-furlong Bashford Manor, while Rated Fiesty and Wonderful Luck are his candidates for the six-furlong Debutante, for which he has 10 of the 30 nominees.

The feature race on closing day, July 8, is the $150,000 Locust Grove for fillies and mares.

Quinonez to focus on Ellis

While most of the top jockeys at Churchill will pass up the Ellis Park meet that begins Wednesday in Henderson, Ky., the top apprentice rider at the current meet, Alonso Quinonez, is making it a point to skip the final week of Churchill to focus solely on Ellis.

The tracks will overlap for five straight days next week, Wednesday through Sunday, while Churchill winds down its meet.

"We'll be there every day," said Steve Elzey, Quinonez's agent. Some jockeys who have not fared particularly well at Churchill also will be active at Ellis, at least some days, during the overlapping week before heading there for the summer.

At Ellis, which runs through Sept. 3, entries for the Wednesday opener were drawn Friday.

* Kentucky state steward John Veitch said Friday that a hearing date still has not been set in the case of trainer Patrick Biancone, whose three barns at Keeneland were searched by the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority on June 22. Biancone is permitted to run horses while a racing authority investigation continues.