09/06/2012 1:41PM

Kentucky Downs notes: New racing secretary looks to hit ground running

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Kentucky Downs
Tia Murphy has been a racing official on the Kentucky circuit since 2001.

The timing of Tia Murphy getting her first job as a racing secretary comes as a happy coincidence. Murphy, a 34-year-old resident of northern Kentucky, was appointed to that post several months ago at Kentucky Downs, where enthusiasm for the six-day meet at the south-central Kentucky track is at an unprecedented level because of the huge purses.

“Everybody is geared up,” said Murphy, a racing official on the Kentucky circuit since 2001. “The fields are going to be so big that the biggest concern from horsemen is that they won’t get to run.”

That’s a bad problem to have if you’re an owner or trainer being excluded from an oversubscribed race, but a good one if you’re a racing secretary trying to make a good impression in your first turn at bat.

“I’m really appreciative of the opportunity I’ve been given,” said Murphy, thanking nearly a dozen people, including Kentucky Downs managing partner Corey Johnsen and several of her female mentors – Allison DeLuca, Barbara Borden, and the late Mary Ellen Hickey. “With all the guidance and encouragement I’ve had, it’s very exciting to be a part of what’s going on at Kentucky Downs. I’m extremely grateful.”

Leparoux only visiting

Julien Leparoux has won or shared the leading-rider title at Keeneland at 8 of the last 13 meets, but he won’t be back to try for another one when the fall meet starts Oct. 5. Leparoux had said last spring when he announced his move to New York that he hoped to be back for Keeneland meets.

“We’ll probably be in for some stakes days, but that’s about it,” said Steve Bass, his longtime agent. “It just doesn’t make sense to divert our primary focus of building up our New York business.”

Byrne taps exercise rider for mount

Trainer Pat Byrne has named John Byrne to ride Our Noble Heart, one of the top contenders in the fourth race Saturday at Kentucky Downs. The men are not related.

“John works for me [as an exercise rider] and I thought it’d be nice to give him a shot,” said Pat Byrne.

John Byrne rode his last race on Sept. 23, 2011, at Turfway Park, and got his last victory at the 2008 Churchill Downs fall meet. He has 117 wins in North America.

Brown picking his spots

Chad Brown, coming off a sensational meet at Saratoga, said he will be sending only a limited number of horses to the Keeneland fall meet. Brown had 17 starters at the spring meet.

“We’re going to be very selective with who we send in,” said Brown. “The fall presents a different situation since we’re in the middle of the Belmont meet. In the spring, Keeneland is kind of on the way back from being in Florida all winter and Belmont hasn’t started yet. I’ll most likely send Dayatthespa for the Queen Elizabeth [II Challenge Cup] and some of our 2-year-olds for the bigger races, but probably not much beyond that.”

Lopez to ride fall in Kentucky

Paco Lopez, a former leading jockey at Gulfstream and Monmouth, will ride at Keeneland and Churchill this fall. Lopez, 26, was the Eclipse Award winner for apprentice rider in 2008 and already has notched more than 1,000 wins since moving here from his native Mexico. He currently is second behind Elvis Trujillo at the now-weekends-only Monmouth meet while riding at other East Coast tracks during the week.

◗ Turfway is one of the last tracks still using a 48-hour entry schedule, with entries for the Saturday and Sunday cards being drawn just two days beforehand. Most tracks draw at least 72 hours out. After opening week, this is the schedule: Saturday-for-Thursday, Sunday-for-Friday, Thursday-for-Saturday, Friday-for-Sunday.

◗ The Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders and Kentucky Thoroughbred Association have launched a new website, kentuckybred.org.