11/15/2005 12:00AM

Horses begin their migration south

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Fields have been extraordinarily big at Churchill Downs this fall, but they may be taking a minor hit for the balance of the meet. The Fair Grounds at Louisiana Downs meet, which begins Saturday in Bossier City, La., has decreased the available pool of horses from which Churchill racing secretary Doug Bredar and his staff have been drawing since the meet began Oct. 30.

Trainers of major stables recently began sending horses from Kentucky to Louisiana Downs, including Tom Amoss, Steve Asmussen, Al Stall Jr., Dallas Stewart, and Hal Wiggins. That could take a subtle toll at Churchill, where races have averaged better than 10 starters during the first two weeks of the four-week meet.

Bredar said many Jockey Club foal papers had been signed out of the Churchill racing office since last weekend and that entries had slowed "somewhat" from the frantic pace that has helped to give Churchill arguably the most attractive racing program on the continent this fall.

The largest number of carded entries this meet was 169 for the 11-race "Stars of Tomorrow" card on Nov. 5. The majority of programs have had similarly large numbers, and 12-horse fields have been the rule, not the exception.

Still, even with 121 horses (which includes also-eligibles) on the Wednesday overnight sheet and another 133 on the Thursday overnight, Churchill isn't exactly in danger of carding any walkovers any time soon. With just seven of 21 racing days remaining after Thursday, there should be many horses to help play out the string.

Down south, the 37-day Fair Grounds at Louisiana Downs meet is a provisional meet that was agreed upon in mid-September by Churchill Downs Inc., the owner of Fair Grounds, and the Louisiana division of the Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association. The 2005-06 meet was canceled at the Fair Grounds, which was heavily damaged by Hurricane Katrina on Aug. 29.

After opening weekend, racing at the Fair Grounds at Louisiana Downs meet will be conducted four days a week, through Jan. 22. The meet briefly overlaps with the first weekend of the winter meet at Oaklawn Park, which begins racing Jan. 20. Most horsemen have said they plan to proceed from Louisiana Downs to Oaklawn.

Mott plans triple threat in Cardinal

Three horses must be better than one. Trainer Bill Mott has three mares likely to run Saturday in the Cardinal Handicap at Churchill, and he will be looking for that advantage in numbers to help him extend his lead as the all-time leading stakes trainer at Churchill.

Mott said he plans to run Delta Princess, Fast Cookie, and Noisette in the Cardinal, the first half of Churchill's annual package of twin turf races for older horses. The Sunday feature is the River City Handicap, the male counterpart to the Cardinal. Both are Grade 3, $150,000 races at 1 1/8 miles on the turf.

Including the Mott trio, the Cardinal is expected to get the 12-horse maximum, with the other prospects being Classic Stamp, Katdogawn, Lenatareese, May Gator, Movie Star, Secret Charm, Shaconage, Stage Shy, and Very Very.

Likely starters in the River City Handicap include America Alive, Fort Prado, G P Fleet, Honor in War, King of Happiness, Seeking Answers, and Three Valleys.

Katdogawn is the prospective 121-pound highweight for the Cardinal. Fort Prado and Three Valleys are the 120-pound co-highweights for the River City.

For years, Mott and D. Wayne Lukas have alternated atop the track's list of all-time leaders in stakes wins. After sending out My Typhoon to capture the Mrs. Revere Stakes last weekend, Mott has a 69-67 lead over Lukas.

A day for Derby legends returns

Several years ago, Churchill abandoned its Derby alumni promotion that had become a popular part of Stephen Foster Day every June. Happily for Derby history buffs, the concept will return, albeit in reduced form, when Churchill presents the first "Kentucky Derby Legends Day" on Saturday.

The day will include salutes to, and appearances by, Lukas, Nick Zito, Pat Day, Gary Stevens, Mike Smith, and members of the Sackatoga Stable, owners of Funny Cide. The first 7,500 paid admissions will receive a print of Derby legends by Daily Racing Form caricaturist Peb.