09/02/2011 11:47AM

Guidry encouraged by progress he has made during riding comeback


You might say Mark Guidry is rounding back into form. The comeback for the 52-year-old jockey has started with a modest 1-for-20 mark, but Guidry is hoping to improve on that record before too long.

“I actually think it’s going pretty good,” said Guidry, who ended a retirement of nearly four years when he returned to the saddle with two mounts Aug. 12 at Arlington Park. Since then, Guidry has ridden exclusively at Ellis Park in western Kentucky, with his lone victory coming on Aug. 27 in a $5,000 claiming race aboard Don’tcallmechris.

“Everybody wants to see how I’m progressing, and I understand that,” said Guidry, who has ridden more than 5,000 winners. “I’m starting to get my legs back under me, and I can feel my timing coming back.”

Guidry said he weighed 151 pounds on May 28 and that he is now tacking 119.

“The reducing part was killing me,” he said. “I’ve hit that hotbox pretty good and I’m running with a sweatsuit, all that. I think once I start riding more, it’ll be a lot easier to maintain.”

The victory on Don’tcallmechris was his first since he won an allowance at Churchill Downs on Nov. 10, 2007, the day he retired.

“I’m not letting anything get me down,” said Guidry. “I’m just going to keep progressing at my own pace, and hopefully by the time Keeneland and Churchill come back around, we can really rock and roll.”

Guidry has earned a multitude of riding titles and awards in a career that dates to 1974.

Turfway, Kentucky Downs open

Guidry, like so many other jockeys and horsemen, soon will be shuttling between Turfway and Kentucky Downs, where meets get under way this week. Turfway Park, in Florence, Ky., starts Thursday evening with a 16-day fall meet anchored by the five-race Kentucky Cup series on Sept. 24, while Kentucky Downs, in Franklin, Ky., will host the turf version of the Kentucky Cup with the first of four cards on Saturday, Sept. 10.

The Kentucky Downs opening will come just days after the introduction of 200 Instant Racing video machines. Kentucky Downs became the first state track to install the machines, despite their legality being challenged by an anti-gambling group, the Family Foundation. A court ruling is expected later this year.

Ellis owner Ron Geary has said he hopes to have Instant Racing machines installed by next spring, while officials with The Red Mile harness track in Lexington announced last week that they will also have the machines, pending a favorable court ruling.

Court resumes riding after spill

Veteran jockey Jon Court was back riding Wednesday at Hoosier Park after escaping serious injury in a spill Sunday on the Ellis turf course. Court won a race from two mounts Thursday at the suburban Indianapolis track and said he was simply glad to be in action.

“I’m just a little sore,” said Court.

Court was unhurt despite his mount, Forgive Me Honey, breaking down suddenly and falling hard at the eighth pole. The filly had to be euthanized.

The day before, Sligo’s Deed also had to be euthanized after breaking down nearing the quarter-pole in a turf race. Like a number of American grass courses, the one at Ellis has been adversely affected by drought this summer.

Cliff Guilliams on closing day

Ellis is scheduled to close Monday with the fourth stakes of the 31-day meet, the $50,000 Cliff Guilliams Memorial for older turf runners, along with the Twice Around, a 2 1/4-mile race that in recent years has not been carded for lack of entries.

Thirty-four nominations were received for the Guilliams, and 18 for the Twice Around. Entries for the closing-day program were to be drawn Saturday.

Churchill barn project nearly done

The rebuilding of the barns that incurred damage in the June 22 tornado at Churchill is nearly finished. Churchill spokesman Darren Rogers said Sept. 15 has been targeted as the completion date, well ahead of when many top horses will be back for the Keeneland fall meet (Oct. 7-29) and the Breeders’ Cup (Nov. 4-5).

Training hours at the Louisville track will revert to the usual 6-10 a.m. slot after being from 5-9 for most of the summer, while temporary fencing was being taken down starting Friday so as to resume normal traffic flow in the stable area.

Seven barns incurred the most damage, with Barn 23, occupied by Steve Margolis, being hardest hit.

Kentucky Derby, Oaks tickets on sale

Churchill has announced that up to 20,000 tickets for the 2012 Kentucky Derby and Oaks are being made available to the general public, but only with a non-refundable $50 “administrative fee” when fans apply for the seats, many of which are located in the far reaches of the grandstand and clubhouse. The deadline to request tickets is Nov. 20. More information is available at churchilldowns.com/tickets.

As usual, the best 54,000 seats in the house are allocated as Churchill officials deem best. Attendance at the 137th Derby last May was a record 164,858.