10/01/2008 11:00PM

Five will audition for Churchill job


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Churchill Downs will use five race-callers for one week apiece at its upcoming five-week fall meet in an attempt to determine which one will become the full-time caller in time for the 135th Kentucky Derby next May, officials with the track announced Thursday.

Four of the voices are familiar to American racegoers, while another, Mark Johnson, calls races in England. The American-based callers are Larry Collmus, who announces at Gulfstream Park, Monmouth Park, and Suffolk Downs; Bobby Neuman, Calder Race Course; Travis Stone, Louisiana Downs; and Michael Wrona, Golden Gate Fields.

The Churchill meet runs Oct. 26 through Nov. 29. In order, the callers will be Neuman (Oct. 26-Nov. 2), Stone (Nov. 5-9), Wrona (Nov. 12-16), Collmus (Nov. 19-23), and Johnson (Nov. 26-29).

The Churchill race-caller position came open after Luke Kruytbosch, the announcer since 1999, died suddenly a week after the 2008 spring meet ended July 6. Kruytbosch was the fifth announcer in track history.

A committee of Churchill officials came up with the novel idea of announcer-by-committee. "Our committee will reconvene at season's end and, based on positive reviews, I think there's a good chance that our next announcer will come from this group," Churchill general manager Jim Gates said in a press release. He added a final decision could come before the end of the year.

Spinster a big test for Unbridled Belle

Eleven fillies and mares are scheduled to run Sunday in the $500,000 Juddmonte Spinster Stakes, the last of the nine FallStars Weekend stakes scheduled for the first three days of the Keeneland fall meet.

Unbridled Belle, a $1.5-million earner for Team Valor International and trainer Todd Pletcher, is the most accomplished starter in the Grade 1 Spinster, but two fillies with graded stakes triumphs over the Keeneland Polytrack - Jibboom, winner of the Raven Run last fall, and Little Belle, winner of the Ashland in the spring - are in the lineup for the 1 1/8-mile race. Unbridled Belle is unraced over synthetics, setting up an interesting confrontation.

Unbridled Belle, a 5-year-old mare by Broken Vow, is entered off back-to-back third-place finishes in the July 13 Delaware Handicap, which she won in 2007, and the Aug. 22 Personal Ensign at Saratoga.

The Spinster is a Win and You're In race in the Breeders' Cup Challenge series, with the winner getting a berth into the Oct. 24 BC Ladies' Classic.

Last year, Pletcher won his first Spinster with Panty Raid. Pletcher later decided against running Panty Raid in any of the Breeders' Cup races.

From the rail, this is the field for the 53rd Spinster: Wake Up Maggie, Indescribable, Model, Carriage Trail, Sharp Susan, Little Belle, Jibboom, Rolling Sea, Unbridled Belle, Say You Will, and Rosinka, who was cross-entered in Friday's First Lady.

The Spinster is carded as the ninth of 10 races on a Sunday card that also includes the $200,000 Woodford Reserve Bourbon Stakes (race 7) for 2-year-old turf runners. A full field of 12, headed by Bittel Road and Giant Oak, was entered, with the winner automatically gaining entry into the Oct. 25 BC Juvenile Turf as part of the BC Challenge series.

Shorter cards at end of meet

The expanded two-day format (Oct. 24-25) for the Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita will mean some variance in the last two programs of the Keeneland fall meet. Racing secretary Ben Huffman will card nine races, instead of the usual 10, on Friday, Oct. 24, while using seven live races on Saturday, Oct. 25.

"On both days, we will be very careful to work around the Breeders' Cup simulcasts so as to accommodate our customers as best we can," said Huffman.

Churchill Downs will begin its five-week meet the day after the Breeders' Cup, Oct. 26.

* Horseplayers at Keeneland and throughout its vast simulcast network surely will notice how good the television signal has become. With the start of the fall meet Friday, Keeneland became the first track in North America to employ high-definition television technology. Keeneland also has upgraded its ontrack sound system, with one of the main features being the ability to adjust volume levels depending on noise generated by the crowd.

* Early birds with a taste for French classics can avail themselves of the major Longchamp races being run Sunday morning. Keeneland will simulcast four races, highlighted by the Prix de l'Opera and the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, with the first simulcast set for 10 a.m. Eastern.

* Daily coverage of Keeneland racing, including two hours (4-6 p.m.) of Saturday action, are available on syndicated broadcasts from the Horse Racing Radio Network (HRRN). Webcasts also are streamed live on horseracingradio.net. Mike Penna, Pete Kules, and Jude Feld are the hosts.