07/16/2009 12:00AM

Improbable comeback for King of the Roxy


King of the Roxy was supposed to be somewhere other than Ellis Park on Saturday. But here he is, more than 15 months after his latest race, one of the likely favorites for the $50,000 Don Bernhardt Memorial Stakes at the Henderson, Ky., track.

King of the Roxy, owned by Team Valor International, supposedly was retired last fall after it appeared he would be unable to recover from a pastern injury. But syndicate principal Barry Irwin recanted the retirement in February, and after being sent to Kesmarc, the Lexington, Ky., equine rehabilitation facility that includes an oxygen chamber and swimming pool, King of the Roxy resumed training at Churchill Downs for Todd Pletcher.

"We got him back in here right around Derby time," in late April or early May, according to Michael McCarthy, the Kentucky assistant for Pletcher. "He's been training forwardly, and this race at Ellis looked like a decent spot to get him started back."

King of the Roxy, a 5-year-old Ohio-bred horse by Littleexpectations, was quite precocious at 2 and 3, winning the Futurity at Belmont and the Hutcheson at Gulfstream before running a close second to Tiago in the 2007 Santa Anita Derby. His last start resulted in a sixth-place finish in the Grade 1 Carter Handicap at Aqueduct in April 2008.

The 6 1/2-furlong Bernhardt also has Vicarian as a major player in a field of nine 3-year-olds and upward. Although he failed to fire as the 3-1 second choice in the Grade 3 Aristides last month at Churchill, the Ian Wilkes-trained Vicarian is a steady closer with a solid record, including runner-up finishes in minor stakes at Churchill and Hawthorne.

Calvin Borel has the mount back on Vicarian, while Orlando Mojica takes the reins on King of the Roxy.

Fringe considerations in the 40th running of the Bernhardt include Tend, who capped a three-race win streak last fall by winning a restricted stakes at Delta Downs, and True Course, a hard-trying 6-year-old trained by Steve Margolis.

The Bernhardt, named for the late sports editor of the Evansville Courier & Press, anchors easily the best card of the Ellis meet so far. Two turf allowances (races 5 and 10) also are on tap. First post is 12:10 p.m. Central.