11/12/2008 12:00AM

Leparoux joins Day in 7-win club

Churchill Downs/Reed Palmer Photography
Jockey Julien Leparoux became just the second rider in Churchill Down history to win seven on a card.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - They've run horse races over this same tract of ground for 134 years now, and only two jockeys have ever won as many as seven in one day at Churchill Downs.

Not Roscoe Goose or Mack Garner. Not Steve Brooks or Don Brumfield. Not Jim McKnight, Julio Espinoza, Shane Sellers, Calvin Borel, Robby Albarado, or Rafael Bejarano.

Until Tuesday, only Pat Day had won seven races in one afternoon at Churchill. Day, it almost goes without saying, is the be-all and end-all of Churchill jockeys. He owns virtually every major riding record here, including his 2,481 career wins at Churchill.

So when Julien Leparoux reeled off victories with his first seven mounts here Tuesday, he had no idea how to put it into context.

"I don't know," Leparoux said the next morning before nervously laughing and adding: "I guess listening to people, it's pretty good."

Indeed it is. The Tuesday program began amid a light rain that persisted throughout the afternoon and kept all but the hardiest souls under cover, but, curiously, the rain was never heavy enough to render the track condition anything but fast. The day started in ordinary fashion - until it became apparent that Leparoux was doing something extraordinary. Then, the subplots kept unfolding:

* Calvin Borel vacated his Tuesday mounts to return to Louisiana for the funeral of his 87-year-old mother, Ella. Leparoux picked up two of his open mounts, including Troutdale, winner of the third race.

* With the exception of the seventh race, when Majestic Feline returned $4.40 as the shortest-priced of the seven Leparoux winners, the mutuel payoffs were progressively bigger with every winner.

Leparoux won the first race with Diva's Gold ($6.40), the second with Yikes ($7.80), the third with Troutdale ($8.40), the fourth with Gerivello ($10.40), the fifth with Variant ($11), sat out the sixth, won the seventh with Majestic Feline, then won the eighth with Runway West ($12).

* From the quarter pole to the wire, every one of Leparoux's winners improved its position, with all but one of them (Yikes, a gate-to-wire winner) passing at least two horses down the stretch. "Every time when you win races, sometimes you have the best horse anyway," Leparoux said.

Countered Eddie Kenneally, the trainer of Runway West: "He was really in the zone."

* Michael Wrona, the third of the five guest announcers this fall at Churchill, had a veritable field day with the proceedings, uttering such witticisms as, "I tell you, he'd win on a broomstick!" as the fourth race ended, and "Is this the only jockey name I need to know for the entire week?" in the fifth.

* By chance, the local newspaper, the Louisville Courier-Journal, ran a lengthy feature on Leparoux in its Tuesday editions that jumped from the front of the sports page. Sports superstitions being what they are, writer Jennie Rees was tickled that one such "jinx" worked in reverse in this particular case.

* The size of the Leparoux feat may have been inversely proportional to the size of the ontrack crowd. Although Churchill no longer releases attendance figures, it appeared that only several thousand fans, if that, were on hand. Racing normally is not conducted here on Tuesdays, and only because of the Veterans Day holiday was it held on this day.

* When Day won seven on June 20, 1984, it was on an eight-race card, with only his mount in the fourth race, Hatchet Job, failing to win. For the record, the $2 win prices on the Day winners that afternoon were $4.80, $10.80, $2.80, $2.60, $2.20, $4.80, and $9.20.

Day, who retired more than three years ago and lives in Louisville, said he was unaware that Leparoux had tied his record until Wednesday morning.

"People had called my cell phone, but it was turned off," Day said. "I read it in the paper, having my cup of coffee. I was excited for him, absolutely. He's a fine young man, a good rider."

* Leparoux's two losing mounts Tuesday were Rocketinthegate, eighth at 8-1 in the ninth race, and Sinister, a non-threatening runner-up as the 3-1 second choice in the 10th and last race. The three non-Leparoux winners Tuesday were all favorites: Chief Talkneetna in the sixth, Distorted Passion in the ninth, and Next Adventure in the 10th.

* In a little more than three years of riding in the United States, the list of notable feats for Leparoux, 25, keeps getting longer. He was the Eclipse Award winner as top apprentice in 2006, when he led all jockeys in wins with 403. He has been a leading rider on multiple occasions at Churchill, Keeneland, and Turfway Park. He has won two Breeders' Cup races, and he was second in the 2008 Preakness on Macho Again and third in the 2008 Belmont with Anak Nakal.

Leparoux is on pace to surpass Day's 1985 record for most wins at a Churchill fall meet. Through Tuesday, the 12th of 26 dates, Leparoux had ridden 31 winners. The Day record is 55.

Leparoux had been noncommittal in recent weeks about whether he would ride at Gulfstream Park or the Fair Grounds this winter. In the wake of his Tuesday accomplishments, he said he is leaning toward Gulfstream "after I take a little time off."