09/05/2006 11:00PM

Four riders still up for Prairie title


Heading into the final three days of the 36-day mixed meeting at Prairie Meadows, Alex Birzer holds a one-win lead over Glenn Corbett in the jockey standings, with Carlos Montalvo and Terry Thompson within striking range four and five wins back, respectively. Birzer is seeking his first Prairie Meadows riding title, while Corbett has captured the mixed meet title in six of the past seven years.

Trainer Dick Clark is on his way to a sixth straight mixed meeting title, as he holds a 24-18 advantage over Ray Tracy Jr.

Corbett is lucky to be battling for the title after avoiding injury in Sunday's first race, when his mount McKinley Park broke down in both forelegs while running in second approaching the stretch in the one-mile claiming event. Corbett went over McKinley Park's head and rolled under the inner rail before another horse, Sweet Expectations, and rider Luis Ranilla struck and fell over the fallen McKinley Park. Corbett returned to win the next race, but Ranilla wasn't so lucky as he was taken to Mercy Hospital in Des Moines, where he was diagnosed with a broken bone in his back. McKinley Park, a 3-year-old gelding who had started just five days earlier for Clark, was humanely destroyed, while Sweet Expectations appeared to avoid serious injury.

* Last week was also a tough one for the veteran husband-and-wife jockey tandem of David Essman and Vicki Warhol. Warhol was unseated and then trampled by a yearling she was schooling in the paddock for an upcoming sale. She suffered multiple broken ribs along with several minor injuries, and will be out of action indefinitely.

Several days later, Essman checked into the hospital complaining of stomach pain and was diagnosed with pancreatitis. He took off his mounts throughout the holiday weekend.

* Gary Palmer has officially taken over as chief executive officer of Prairie Meadows after Palmer and the board of directors reached a salary agreement last week. Palmer, who was named CEO by the board of directors in August after a national search, will earn $250,000 per year plus bonuses.

Palmer began working at Prairie Meadows in 1998 as the vice president of operations under the track's then-general manager and CEO, Bob Farinella. Farinella resigned in February under pressure from the board because of cost overruns related to an ongoing expansion project at the track and casino. Palmer earned $189,000 last year as the track's senior vice president and chief operating officer under Farinella.

Palmer has strong community ties in the Des Moines area but had no prior casino or racetrack experience before coming to Prairie Meadows.

Charles Town

The ultra-consistent filly Carnival Chrome solidified her status as one of the favorites for next month's West Virginia Breeders Classic races at Charles Town by scoring a four-length victory in Saturday's first round of preps.

Carnival Chrome ($3.20), ridden by Dale Whittaker for trainer David Waters, wired the seven-furlong Roger Van Hoozer Memorial in 1:26.12 on Saturday over a sealed track labeled muddy. She was awarded a Beyer Speed Figure of 80 for the win, her sixth victory in seven lifetime starts.

Carnival Chrome's only loss came when she finished third as the 3-5 favorite in last fall's West Virginia Division of Tourism on the Breeders Classic program.

In a seven-furlong prep for males, Hello Out There ($31.40), whose recent form had been dismal, scored a half-length win over Shenandoah Harley in the Robert Hilton Memorial. The winning time was 1:26.18.

Claimed for $10,000 in January by trainer Ronney Brown, Hello Out There won for the first time since taking a second-level allowance with a Beyer Figure of 84 in March. He received a 79 Beyer for his Hilton victory.

Two prominent horses from the 2005 Breeders Classic produced mixed results in the Hilton.

Speed Whiz, winner of last year's $450,000 Classic at 1 1/8 miles, made a five-wide move to take the lead briefly. Although he was overtaken and finished fourth, Speed Whiz earned a favorable "finished strongly" comment from the chart-caller.

Slew's Smile, runner-up to Speed Whiz in the 2005 Classic, displayed only brief speed before fading to 10th and last in the Hilton.

This year's West Virginia Breeders Classics will be held on Oct. 14. Charles Town will hold two more stakes preps each of the next two Saturdays.

- Joe DeVivo


Nebraska-bred 2-year-olds close out the stakes season for Nebraska on Friday at Columbus, with a pair of $15,000-added stakes at six furlongs, the Columbus Debutante and Columbus Futurity, taking an early spotlight on closing weekend.

Five fillies entered for the Debutante, including Shade On, who comes back off her solid maiden score here on Aug. 27. Shade On, trained by Bob Bowman for owner Tondi Reinhart, is the only winner in the compact field, as she ran away from her rivals to win by 8 3/4 lengths. She was allowed to slip under the radar at 9-1 that day but looks like an odds-on favorite for Friday's race.

A field of six colts and geldings will match up in the Futurity, which will also become the state's richest maiden race of the season - no winners are present in the field. Favorite Rookie and I Talk Alot are the likely top choices off good showings in their maiden races, while three other entrants will be making their debuts.

Favorite Rookie, trained by Ron Westermann for owner Brian Becker, set the pace but weakened late to finish third against Plaer's Trump in the Club House Special at Columbus on Aug. 26. Plaer's Trump has been the strongest-looking of the 2-year-olds to appear this year, and Favorite Rookie's good showing should point him as the Futurity favorite.

I Talk Alot, trained by Erin McCord, was runner-up to Completely Chrome in a 3 1/2-furlong maiden race here on Aug. 13 in his career debut and will have R.D. Williams aboard as he stretches out to six furlongs.

* Williams posted a five-win night here last Friday and moved back into the thick of the jockey race. Dennis Collins holds a 39-35 edge over Williams entering the final three days of racing while Jerry Carkeek and Yuri Yaranga are tied at 30 wins each. David Anderson has wrapped up his fifth straight training title here, bringing a 27-13 lead over David Grimes into closing weekend.

* Sunday's Fan Appreciation Day and closing-day festivities will include several giveaways that fans have registered for throughout the season. The prizes up for grabs include a 2006 Chevrolet Cobalt Coupe LS, a Honda Rancher all-terrain vehicle, two 52-inch televisions, and a stainless steel Kenmore grill.

* Horsemen's Atokad Downs closes out the Thoroughbred season in the state next weekend. Entries will be taken on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday at Columbus for the three-day festival meet.

- Bill Hodtwalker