11/17/2005 1:00AM

Loose definition of 'Derby legend'


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Let's see. In the context of Kentucky Derby legends, which of these names just doesn't belong here?

D. Wayne Lukas, Nick Zito, Gary Stevens, Chris McCarron, Ron Turcotte, Patti Cooksey . . .Correct!! Patti Cooksey never even came close to winning the Derby - her only mount came aboard So Vague, the 11th-place finisher in 1984 - and yet Churchill has included Cooksey for the Derby Legends activities here Saturday.

A Churchill official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the track's marketing department "wanted to include a woman" in the festivities, but neither Diane Crump, the first woman to ride in the Derby (1970, Fathom), nor Julie Krone, the only female Hall of Fame member, was available.

The marketing department got its way. Although it's quite a stretch to label her a "Derby legend," Cooksey was the second woman to ride in the Derby - and, from an overall career standpoint, she is something of a hero to the locals as the second-winningest female jockey (behind Krone) in history.

Still, Cooksey received, and accepted, an invitation. Other Derby-winning connections were not invited, and only after reporters made extensive inquiries to Churchill officials about the event did track officials extend a verbal invitation on Thursday to Lexington-based trainer Don Combs, who will saddle Miss Nashwan Saturday in the Cardinal Handicap. Combs won the 1970 running with Dust Commander.

Derby Legends, unlike the Alumni Day celebrations that Churchill started (and then stopped) several years ago, does not portend to be all-inclusive. Expenses became exorbitant for Alumni Day, but Churchill wanted to revive the tradition without having to extend invitations to every surviving Derby-winning jockey, trainer, or owner.

Albarado hampered by travel glitch

Jockey Robby Albarado missed out on two winners Wednesday when he was stranded in Houston because of a canceled flight. Albarado had traveled to New Orleans to check on the condition of his townhouse during Churchill's two-day dark period and was scheduled to return Wednesday morning, with a stopover in Houston, only to get stuck. He made it back to Louisville by early evening.

While he was away, Albarado lost the chance to ride Scat Cat Jamey ($9.40), who won the fourth race with Corey Lanerie up, and She's a Rebel Too ($12), who captured the eighth under Eddie Martin Jr.

Those two wins would have allowed Albarado to pull within one of Rafael Bejarano in a surprisingly close jockeys' race. Going into the Thursday card, Bejarano, who has dominated the last few Churchill meets, had 17 wins, followed by Albarado (14), Mark Guidry (13), and Jesus Castanon (12).

Two River City candidates drop out

Churchill officials said Three Valleys and King of Happiness have been dropped from consideration for the Sunday feature, the $150,000 River City Handicap, a Grade 3 race that serves as the male counterpart to the Cardinal. Three Valleys, the beaten favorite in the Grade 1 Shadwell Mile in his last start, and King of Happiness, winner of the Inglewood Handicap at Hollywood in April, both figured as major contenders.

Their defections still leave a solid field for the 1 1/8-mile River City. With weight assignments, the probables include Fort Prado, 120 pounds; America Alive, 119; G P Fleet, 117; Honor in War, 117; Shaniko, 116; and Seeking Answers, 114.

Fort Prado, based at Hawthorne with Chris Block, finished sixth in his only try over the Churchill grass. Conversely, several of the other topweights have shown a particular fondness for Churchill, including America Alive and Honor in War, who both won the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve (in 2005 and 2003, respectively), and G P Fleet, who has 4 wins and 3 seconds in 8 career starts over the Churchill turf.

All in the family

A racing rarity surfaced here this week when three half-siblings raced at Churchill, including two who lined up alongside each other in the starting gate Wednesday.

O'Lee's Story, starting from post 8, finished third, and Clever Maid, who started from post 7, finished sixth Wednesday in the eighth race, a five-furlong $40,000 claimer that was transferred from the turf to the main track.

O'Lee's Story, a 5-year-old mare trained by Greg Foley, is by Partner's Hero out of Toosie. Clever Maid, a 4-year-old filly trained by Bernie Flint, is by Confide out of Toosie.

Remarkably, a 2-year-old half-sister to those horses made her debut here Thursday. Toosie's Affair, by Royal Anthem out of Toosie, finished eighth in the fifth race.

* Churchill jockeys and officials conducted a brief winner's circle ceremony before the Thursday program to honor two jockeys who died recently: James "Chris" Herrell, who died last weekend in his Louisville apartment at 31, and Josh Radosevich, the 16-year-old apprentice who died Wednesday in a spill at Beulah Park.