09/03/2006 11:00PM

Kentucky Cup now fits better on several fronts


FLORENCE, Ky. - The repositioning of the Kentucky Cup series to a later date than what had been customary is the most noticeable change to the routine at Turfway Park this fall.

Normally run in mid-September, three weeks before the "FallStars Weekend" series of Breeders' Cup preps are run at Keeneland, the five-race Kentucky Cup series is being run this year on Sept. 30, one weekend before the major Keeneland races are held.

Turfway president Bob Elliston said the switch was made for several reasons.

"Except for maybe a 2-year-old running back at Keeneland, there wasn't a whole lot of crossover between our races and theirs," said Elliston. "The way it was, the Kentucky Cup would've been seven weeks before the Breeders' Cup," set for Nov. 4 at Churchill Downs. "Now it's five, which is the kind of time between races that more and more horsemen are using.

"It also moves us away from a weekend that had presented scheduling conflicts, at least in the local community. It had been the same weekend as Oktoberfest," a Cincinnati tradition that draws hundreds of thousands of visitors, "and now that weekend is freed up for a lot more folks around here."

With the recent announcement that the Massachusetts Handicap, originally scheduled for Sept. 30, has been canceled, the Kentucky Cup Classic would seem a logical candidate to replace it as part of an NTRA pick four scheduled for that day. Further details are in the works, said Elliston.

Leparoux liable to dominate

Wins at the Ellis Park meet that ended Monday in Henderson, Ky., were fairly evenly distributed, although Miguel Mena pulled away in the last couple of weeks to clinch his first riding title.

But a spreading of the wealth might not be the case at Turfway - not if Julien Leparoux is riding on a regular basis. Leparoux, the French sensation who loses his apprentice allowance later this month, has four mounts on both the Wednesday and Thursday cards and figures to attract heavy wagering action whenever he rides.

Leparoux, who smashed the Turfway record by riding 167 winners at the winter-spring meet, had 306 wins going into Monday action at Saratoga, the most of any jockey in North America this year.

Non-stop action during September

As always, September will be a very busy month for racing in this state. Besides Wednesday-through-Sunday action at Turfway, the six-day Kentucky Downs meet also will be run later in the month - and for the first time, the Kentucky Cup turf series will precede its dirt counterpart.

These are the racing dates at Kentucky Downs in Franklin: Sept. 16, 18, 19, 23, 25, and 26. Those are Saturdays, Mondays, and Tuesdays, meaning that there won't be a single dark day in the state from Sept. 13 through Oct. 1.

The three-race Kentucky Cup turf series will be run Sept. 23. The $200,000 Kentucky Cup Turf is the richest of those races.

* Honor in War, the millionaire 7-year-old who has been idle since finishing eighth in the May 6 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic at Churchill Downs, will return to action Saturday, although trainer Paul McGee is unsure of whether it will be at Turfway or Arlington Park. The choices are the $100,000 Turfway Fall Championship or the $40,000 John Henry in Chicago.

* A longstanding tradition on closing day at Ellis was conspicuous by its absence Monday. The "twice around," as it is known, failed to fill for lack of sufficient entries. The 2 1/4-mile race for $5,000 claiming runners long has been enjoyed by Ellis fans because of its distance.

* In conjunction with the Kentucky Thoroughbred Associa-tion, Turfway is offering its annual college scholarship raffle on Kentucky Cup Day. Ten scholarships, each worth $1,000, will be raffled off throughout the afternoon.