11/14/2008 12:00AM

McKee gets back into the picture


LOUISVILLE, Ky. – There’s something better than busting a slump with a winner – and that’s busting a slump with two winners.

John McKee had been winless from his first 49 mounts at the Churchill Downs fall meet before he guided Not Me But U to a 27-1 upset in the third race Thursday. After sitting out the fourth race, McKee was right back at it, taking the fifth race aboard another big-priced winner, Nafass ($33).

“I was hoping this would happen sooner than later,” said McKee, a 27-year-old native of Cincinnati.

Through Thursday, McKee had ridden 1,053 winners from 7,517 mounts in a career that began in 2002. Riding primarily in Kentucky while spending the winters at Oaklawn Park, where he was the leading rider in 2004 and experienced his career peak in 2006 in a sweep of the meet’s major 3-year-old races aboard Lawyer Ron, McKee has become very familiar with the ups and downs of racing. He was 0 for 26 here last fall before winning a race, and he was 2 for 56 at the recently ended fall meet at Keeneland.

“I guess everybody goes through streaks like that,” said a smiling McKee.

Gelding bleeds once more

Fans who were expecting Mike Maker to tie the Churchill record for most wins by a trainer at a fall meet were in for a rude awakening Friday when Korbyn Gold, Maker’s lone starter on the day, had to be pulled up by jockey Julien Leparoux after bleeding from the nostrils as the even-money favorite in the fourth race.

Korbyn Gold, a 7-year-old gelding with 17 wins from 54 starts, has a history of exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhaging, or bleeding. The problem has been periodically acknowledged by his trainers – he has had seven, in all.

Maker, with 19 wins through Friday, figures easily to break the record of 20 wins, set in 2003 by Dale Romans. Friday was just the 15th of 26 days at the meet.

Maker, 39, was the leading trainer at the Keeneland fall meet. He is a former longtime assistant to D. Wayne Lukas with about 85 horses at his disposal. He will be taking a string of about 30 horses to the Gulfstream Park meet that begins Jan. 3.

Simon ponders return to race-riding

Paula Simon is considering a return to riding. In the mid-1990s, before she was married to trainer Chuck Simon, she was known to New York racing fans as Paula Keim-Bruno, a capable jockey who rode frequently for Hall of Fame trainer Allen Jerkens.

Simon, 44, last rode in 1999, when she had 17 winners from 241 mounts. She only recently began exercising horses again.

“She’s a long ways from a race,” said her husband, a former Jerkens assistant. “She’s kind of like a horse who’s been off two years and just had her first gallop.”

Surfside filly scores

A proud family history was perpetuated here Wednesday, albeit scarcely noticed by the sparse ontrack crowd. Big Surf, a 2-year-old colt by Storm Cat, won a maiden race for Overbrook Farm, adding a footnote to what his dam and granddam accomplished for Overbrook at Churchill.

Big Surf is out of Surfside, who eight years ago won the Clark Handicap in a very rare feat: she was a 3-year-old filly beating older males. Surfside, by Seattle Slew, was produced by Flanders, who in 1994 won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at Churchill in what became her final career race.

Big Surf, trained by Todd Pletcher, is the third foal out of Surfside to win a race. The other two are 6-year-old Shark, an earner of $183,076, and 3-year-old High Surf, a winner of $82,294.

Misty Lady makes good

Misty Lady rebounded in impressive fashion, drawing off to win the Thursday feature, a $44,260 allowance, by five lengths. A Group 1 winner in her native Argentina, Misty Lady had been a disappointment in her North American debut last month at Keeneland, where she finished fourth as the 6-5 favorite in a Polytrack allowance.

Trained by Steve Asmussen and ridden by Shaun Bridgmohan, Misty Lady returned $4.60 after finishing six furlongs in 1:11.87 over a muddy track.

* The lone graded race here next week is the Grade 3, $100,000 River City Handicap on Saturday. Thorn Song, winner of the Shadwell Turf Mile last month at Keeneland, is the likely favorite for the River City, which goes at 1 1/8 miles on the turf. Also Saturday, the six-furlong Bet on Sunshine, an overnight handicap, is expected to feature the return of unbeaten Euroears.