05/28/2001 11:00PM

Five-ride Day seeking 8,000


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - When the Met Mile simulcast was shown at Churchill Downs shortly after the last live race was run Monday, some people found themselves in the unfamiliar position of rooting against Pat Day.

The reasons were selfish, but understandable. Day finished ninth aboard favored Traditionally in the Met Mile, and his career victory total remained at 7,999. The defeat meant that when Day becomes just the third jockey in North American racing history to hit the 8,000-win milestone, he almost assuredly will do it in front of his adoring public at Churchill, his home track.

Day is scheduled to ride seven horses Thursday at Churchill, and, as usual, most of them are extremely live; none is higher than 9-2 on the track's morning line. If and when Day hits the 8,000 mark, Churchill will host an elaborate ceremony acknowledging the feat. And even in the unlikely event the Hall of Fame jockey is shut out Thursday, he will be back again Friday to try all over again.

Day's chase at history will begin in the first race with Dancin B B, trained by James Bemiss. His other mounts are Ididarod Trail in the second for Pat Byrne, High Cascade in the third for D. Wayne Lukas, Camden Park in the sixth for Elliott Walden, Tap Your Feet in the seventh for Neil Howard, Elite Mercedes in the eighth for Walden, and Endlessly in the ninth for Dale Romans.

Twilight first post for the 10-race Thursday card is 3 p.m. Eastern.

Probably the most intriguing mount for Day is Elite Mercedes, who was regarded as a Kentucky Derby hopeful last year when he finished third in the Fountain of Youth Stakes and second in the Spiral Stakes. But he was sidelined after being injured in a fourth-place finish in the Arkansas Derby.

Elite Mercedes, a Florida-bred owned by WinStar Farm, makes his comeback following a year-plus layoff against six rivals in a six-furlong, second-level allowance worth $46,500.

"We're looking forward to getting him back to the races," said Walden. "I wanted to run him last weekend in a longer race, but it didn't go. We just want to get a race in him. We'll evaluate what to do with him after this."

* Churchill's weekly handicapping contest, sponsored in part by Daily Racing Form, will be held Thursday. The contest, which costs $20 to enter, normally is held on Wednesdays, but Churchill was dark Wednesday because of racing on Monday, Memorial Day.