11/12/2008 1:00AM

Leparoux's feat triggers memories


Julien Leparoux, who is not even from Kentucky, had the audacity to win seven of the nine races run at Churchill Downs on Tuesday, effectively turning Veterans Day in America into Bastille Day on the Ohio.

Seven wins in a day, especially at a major track, is a very big deal. Leparoux was suitably moved, but he did not really understand the significance of his accomplishment until he learned that the only other jockey to do it in the history of Churchill Downs was Pat Day. Even in France, they've heard of Pat Day.

According to the 2008 American Racing Manual, which includes North American records through the end of 2007, a rider had won seven in a day 56 times. Among the notables on the list are Laffit Pincay, Jerry Bailey, Earlie Fires, and Rafael Bejarano, right alongside Austin Lovelace, Justin Stein, and Jack Wash. Sandy Hawley and Russell Baze both did it twice. Dave Gall, the king of downstate Illinois, nailed seven winners four times - twice at Fairmount Park and twice at old Cahokia Downs.

Agent Tony Matos has two riders on the list. Matos won seven with Chuck Baltazar at Laurel on Dec. 15, 1969, waited a few years, and then did it again with Victor Espinoza at Del Mar on Sept. 4, 2006.

"It was cold," Matos recalled at the mention of Baltazar's big day. "I had just gone to work for him, too. That was our first meeting together."

Of course, the agent knows when something like seven is going to happen.

"I wish I knew," Matos replied with a laugh. "You have an idea, but it never works out. They all have to fire on the same day. And you know how many things can happen. I've had a real good card fall apart. The day Victor won seven, he should have won eight, but the last one shied away from the sun."

It's always something. Leparoux came close to eight wins as well, only his last mount on Tuesday came up second best. Eight would have put him in even more exclusive company, with only nine names at that level, including Day, Gall, and the late Hubert S. Jones, who went on to be a racing official on the California circuit.

On June 11, 1944, Jones won with eight of 13 mounts on one of those marathon Saturday cards at Caliente Racetrack in Tijuana. There was no racing in California at the time because of the war.

"As Jonsie told the story, there was some jock who took off the horse that gave him his last winner," said retired steward Pete Pedersen, who served a dozen years with Jones in the stand. "Was money exchanged? Well, it's very possible. Anything would happen in those days.

"Weight finally got him," Pedersen added, "so Hubert didn't have a long career. But that record was in the minds of everybody in racing for a number of years."

Thirty-two, to be exact. The Jones mark stood unequaled until June 16, 1976, the day Jorge Tejeira won eight. Even then, he needed a split shift, winning three at Keystone and five at Atlantic City.

Any rider who rises to such heights will express the joy of the day, then usually get right back to work. Arrogance rarely pays off in a profession that could end with a single bad step.

Still, there are moments that call for grand gestures. Hall of Famer John Sellers, a true gentleman, once won eight straight races at Atlantic City over a two-day stretch. In the midst of his roll, he returned to the jocks' room, pulled off his colors, and with uncharacteristic flair proclaimed with flamboyant alliteration, "I'm John Sellers, a mean #@%#*!"

"All the valets heard me, and spread it around," Sellers said from his home in Florida. "Not long after that, I won the last race one day at Atlantic City. The announcer said the winner was ridden by John "Tucker" Sellers. I just about fell off the horse. Then about six months later, I was at Hialeah heading out in a post parade. All of a sudden somebody yells from the crowd, 'Hey John "Tucker" Sellers, how are ya?' It was one of the valets on holiday."

Eight is great, but nine is so fine that there are only two who have done it in a day. Chris Antley came first, celebrating Halloween of 1987 by winning four at Aqueduct and then five that night at Meadowlands. Then, on June 4, 2005, Eddie Castro monopolized the Calder card by winning with nine of his 11 mounts.

Still, for sheer impact, there may never be a day quite like the one Frankie Dettori crafted on Sept. 28, 1996, at England's historic Ascot. Leparoux, unfortunately, performed his magic in front of a sparse crowd rattling around inside the vast Churchill facility. Dettori, on the other hand, had all of Britain zeroed in on the action, and with several high-profile events at stake, Frankie swept all seven races on the card. They became known, with thanks to directors Akira Kurosawa and John Sturges, as Dettori's "Magnificent 7."

Following the meet, Dettori talked the Ascot management into giving him the finish post for his garden. Better still, the jockey has made a place at his Newmarket home for the 16-year-old gelding Fujiyama Crest, the horse who gave him that precious seventh of seven.