08/20/2010 2:19PM

Kenneally thriving via long distance

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Reached by telephone an hour before saddling first-time starter My Southern Star in the second race at Saratoga on Friday, trainer Eddie Kenneally had a right to be focused entirely on racing at the Spa, not at Ellis Park.

Yet he didn’t have any trouble recalling his record at Ellis, though he seemed reluctant to say it aloud, as if doing so might jinx his luck there.

“We’ve run eight horses,” he said. “Seven have won and one ran out of the money.”

It is therefore little wonder that Kenneally, with assistant Nicola Ward overseeing his Kentucky-based horses, is among the leading trainers at Ellis Park, sitting in second place behind Mike Maker, who entered Friday with 8 winners from 20 starters.

It speaks to the depth of both trainers’ stables that they are putting up these numbers with what might be considered their second-stringers, not their A-list runners stabled at Saratoga this summer.

Kenneally called his 7-for-8 mark at Ellis Park “coincidental,” saying things simply fell into place. His horses fit the conditions of the races being carded, and in hindsight, he added that some might even have been good enough to run at Saratoga.

“It is important to know that it will all even out in the long term,” said Kenneally, whose yearly win percentage since 2005 has averaged 18 percent. “You don’t get a true read of what is happening from such a short period.”

Nevertheless, it is a winning period Kenneally won’t mind continuing.

Jockeys neck and neck

As with the trainers, there is a one-win differential among the two leading riders, Corey Lanerie and Victor Lebron.

Entering Friday’s card, Lanerie held a narrow 25-24 edge in victories over Lebron, with Ben Creed and Oriana Rossi well back in a tie for third with 15 wins apiece.

Of Kenneally’s 7 winners at Ellis Park, 5 of those have come with Lanerie aboard.

Lebron, meanwhile, has been up for all 8 of Maker’s Ellis Park winners.

Turfway purses hold steady with spring level

Turfway Park and Kentucky Downs, which follow Ellis Park on the Kentucky racing calendar after Ellis concludes its meet on Labor Day, released its condition books this week.

Turfway, which cut Wednesdays from its racing schedule and eliminating the Kentucky Cup stakes races, has purses roughly equivalent to its overnight purses from the end of its spring meet, and down slightly per race in comparison to last year’s fall meet, when Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund purse supplements were higher.

Purses at Kentucky Downs, an all-turf racetrack in Southern Kentucky, are on par with those of last year.

Purses at the two tracks fall short of those at Ellis Park, and trail the purses offered at slot-aided Hoosier Park in Anderson, Ind., by a significant amount.

For example, a maiden special weight race at Hoosier Park, contested for $35,000, will be run for $21,000 at Turfway.

Fields remain decent-sized

Although the summer racing at Ellis Park has been low-quality at times, the track continues to draw deep fields in part by often carding claiming races on its turf course and by racing only three days a week.

Even following the opening of Hoosier Park July 30, the track has averaged 9.4 starters per race, down just slightly from 9.6 starters before the Hoosier meet began.

Large fields are again commonplace on Sunday’s 10-race card, with 108 horses entered, plus 15 on the also-eligible list.

Maker and Kenneally are each represented with last-out maiden winners in the featured ninth race, a first-level allowance with a $25,000 claiming condition going 5 1/2 furlongs on turf. Wicked Ravnina races for Maker, while Mimi’s Bling starts for Kenneally.