08/13/2008 11:00PM

Flint back and ready for action

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HENDERSON, Ky. - Bernie Flint has been down this road before. Having won or tied for 11 training titles at Ellis Park, the most in track history, Flint will make the long, familiar drive on Interstate 64 from Louisville to attend the races Saturday at Ellis.

"My doctors cleared me, said I'm finally good to go," said the 68-year-old Flint, who has been troubled in recent months following back surgery. "I'm looking forward to it."

Once there, Flint probably will like what he sees. That's because he has a powerful entry running in the $50,000 James C. Ellis Juvenile, one of two stakes on the Gardenia Handicap undercard. The coupling of Ready Racer and Citizen, both bred and owned by the Stonerside Stable of Bob McNair, figures as an overwhelming favorite in the seven-furlong Ellis Juvenile, which goes as the sixth of 12 races.

"Usually you'd keep horses like this separated," said Flint. "But I have other races in sight, and I've got to get these horses to run without shipping them clear across the United States. Mr. McNair has been very understanding about it. He knows these horses are inexperienced and need to get a taste of competition. We've got other races in mind for later on, and I'm getting them in shape for the campaign ahead."

Ready Racer will break from post 6, and Citizen will break from the outside post in a field of seven entered in the Ellis Juvenile.

After the Flint duo, the top threats appear to be Voodoo Doctor, winner of his lone start in maiden-claiming company at Churchill Downs, and Colonel Rutledge, winner of a maiden special weight sprint on the Ellis turf.

No lock in Fisher Debutante

The sister race to the Ellis Juvenile is the $50,000 Anna M. Fisher Debutante - and if not having an odds-on favorite means it's a better race, well, there you have it.

Partners Star, an allowance winner at Ellis after being claimed by Ken and Sarah Ramsey in her previous start at Churchill for $50,000, should be favored with Victor Lebron riding.

"I like the way her first race went for us," said trainer Mike Maker. "Hopefully she can improve off that and get the job done Saturday."

Other logical contenders among the eight fillies in the Debutante, which goes as the ninth race, include Shadow of Storm, Oculuna, and the Flint-trained More of the Best.

Marquee Delivery always competitive

With 14 in-the-money finishes from 16 career starts, Marquee Delivery has been more consistent than any other starter in the Gardenia.

"You sure can't knock her," said Phil Sims, who trains Marquee Delivery for his Scott County (Ky.) neighbor, breeder-owner David Jacobs. "She's always right there."

Marquee Delivery was up in the final jump to win her last race, a July 12 allowance route over the synthetic Tapeta surface at Presque Isle Downs.

"It was run in an absolute downpour," said Sims. "I think she was kind of complacent there for a while, just wondering what the rain was all about. But then she got to running, like she always does."

Pleasant Hill's race days over

Pleasant Hill was like a shooting star in the 2007 Gardenia. Bred and owned by Donamire Farm, Pleasant Hill was brilliant for a few memorable seconds - but before and after, she wasn't very visible to the racing public.

"She was cut out to be a real good filly, and she really showed it last year winning the Gardenia," said trainer Greg Foley.

Pleasant Hill raced just twice afterward, finishing out of the money in stakes at Turfway and Churchill.

"She had a tiny fracture in her knee," said Foley. "We tried to bring her back in the spring, but she wasn't doing quite good enough to justify it." Now 5, Pleasant Hill is in foal to Broken Vow.

Big day for academy graduate

Apprentice rider Matthew Straight had a day to remember Wednesday when he rode three winners from just four mounts at Ellis. Although he entered the day with just two wins from 67 mounts at the meet, Straight surpassed that previous victory total by booting home Pure Sass ($5.20) in the second, Barbatina ($49.80) in the seventh, and Scat Soohey ($42) in the ninth. After crossing the wire in the last race, Straight gave a jubilant wave.

Straight, 22, is the most successful graduate thus far of the North American Riding Academy headed by Chris McCarron in Lexington, Ky. Straight is from East Greenbush, N.Y., near Troy.

With his fifth career victory, Straight now gets seven pounds, and not 10, as a weight allowance. As with all apprentices in Kentucky, he will get a five-pound allowance after his 35th victory.

* Bill Mott, who will be at Saratoga while his Kentucky assistant, Kenny McCarthy, stands in for him by saddling Gardenia favorite Fancy Fusaichi, is the only trainer with a 2008 starter to have won the race before. Mott won the 1990 running with Evangelical.