06/17/2005 12:00AM

Gretchen's Star takes drop


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Ron Isbell Jr. has often said that Gretchen's Star is not the easiest horse to care for, but many trainers would love to have such a burden around the barn. Despite his physical ailments, the 10-year-old Gretchen's Star is still swinging away, even in the twilight of his career.

Isbell, an owner-trainer based at the Thoroughbred Training Center in Lexington, rarely has risked losing Gretchen's Star via the claim box, but he will take that chance Sunday when Gretchen's Star, a winner of nine races and more than $425,000, heads an overflow field of turf specialists in the feature race at Churchill Downs. Although Gretchen's Star finished last in his most recent start, he ran against some of the toughest turf horses around, and is taking what amounts to a sizable class drop Sunday.

Calvin Borel has the mount on Gretchen's Star, who is entered for the $80,000 claiming option in a race otherwise restricted to third-level allowance horses. The $57,000 race is scheduled for 1 1/16 miles on the turf.

Little interest in Ten Broeck series

The Churchill spring meet has a decades-long tradition of running a series of distance races under starter-allowance conditions. The Ten Broeck series, named for the horse that in 1876 set the Churchill record for three miles (the record is 5:26 1/2, and there is no mention of whether that clocking was obtained by sun dial), consists of four races at progressively longer distances.

The series was supposed to begin with a 1 1/16-mile race in early May, but only four horses entered, and the race was canceled. The same thing happened with the next race in the series at 1 1/8 miles, which drew two entries. And the same with the next race, at 1 1/4 miles; it was supposed to be run Saturday but drew one entry.

Churchill racing secretary Doug Bredar said he is disappointed the Ten Broeck has all but disintegrated - at least for this year - because of a lack of interest.

"The last race in the Ten Broeck series is a mile and a half at the end of the meet," he said. "I guess I'm about 100-1 to make that one."

Bredar said another annual starter-allowance series, the Cutter championships, have drawn enough entries just once in three tries. Those races are scheduled at sprint distances that build up to one mile.

Derby Alumni Day all but dead

The prospects of Churchill reviving the popular Kentucky Derby Alumni Day to coincide with the Stephen Foster seem remote. After canceling the alumni activities in 2001 after they were held to considerable fanfare the three previous years, Churchill officials said they wanted to revive it someday.

But that hasn't happened, and it does not appear likely for the near future. Among the obstacles is the considerable expense of providing transportation, lodging, and other accommodations to the Derby-winning connections who would come to town for the event.

Random testing program continues

Churchill will continue random testing for alkalizing agents, as opposed to testing every starter, even though all quarantine restrictions ended Friday.

From the start of the spring meet, April 30, until an outbreak of the equine herpes virus was announced May 17, Churchill had been testing every starter for alkalizing agents, but that became impractical when the quarantine situation began. There have been no reported violations since the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority began the testing at the Keeneland meet in April.

* Battle Won, upset winner of the May 7 Churchill Downs Handicap, is among the 23 horses nominated to the Aristides Breeders' Cup, which will be run here June 25. Trainer Chuck Simon said Ramon Dominguez will be aboard Battle Won again in the six-furlong Aristides. Other notable nominees include Bwana Charlie, Gators N Bears, and Level Playingfield.

* Funeral plans were pending Friday for Richard Bailey, who died Tuesday at age 95. Bailey was a clocker for nearly 60 years, primarily at Turfway Park and River Downs. In his later years, Bailey was a fixture at Turfway during live racing. Arrangements are being handled by the Thompson, Hall and Jordan Funeral Home on Montgomery Road in the Silverton area of Cincinnati.