09/10/2011 1:16PM

Kentucky Downs: Deputy Darling tries to fire fresh in one-mile feature

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FRANKLIN, Ky. – Mike Maker was among the couple thousand people on hand Saturday for the opening of the Kentucky Downs race meet. He must have liked it so much that he will be back for more Monday, when he sends out Deputy Darling for her first race in nearly seven months.

Deputy Darling, with Jimmy Graham fresh in from Chicago to ride, will start from post 8 in a field of nine fillies and mares in the $29,000 featured seventh race on an eight-race card. The second-level optional $45,000 claimer will be run at a mile.

“There wasn’t anything wrong with the mare,” said Maker, who made a number of trips here as the former longtime assistant to D. Wayne Lukas and has been a regular participant since opening his own stable in 2003. “She’d never left the racetrack since she first went into training a couple of years ago, so it was time for her to get a break.”

Maker, who shows a 26-percent win strike with horses returning from layoffs of 180 days or more, said he likes the way Deputy Darling has trained in recent weeks. While Maker was at Saratoga for the summer, he left behind a sizable string at the Trackside training center in Louisville, where Deputy Darling had a final breeze toward her return on Sept. 3.

Deputy Darling is one of three horses entered for the $45,000 claiming option. Otherwise, she would be ineligible for the race, having sailed through this condition long ago.

“She’s a classy mare,” said Maker. “We’d like to have her around for the winter and on through next year if we can. Now is when we get started back.”

Aquapazza and Paoli Princess look like the top challengers to Deputy Darling.

In the preceding race, the sixth, a full field of fillies and mares will clash under a first-level allowance banner and for a $27,000 purse when going six furlongs on the undulating Kentucky Downs course. Storm Cloud Coming (post 9) and Hula (post 10) both come well-drawn as likely favorites, while Pampering (post 11) looms a sleeper just to their outside.

First post Monday is 12:40 p.m. Central, with races run every 30 minutes. Kentucky Downs winds up its four-day meet Sept. 17 and 19.