06/30/2017 9:36AM

Melancon continues to recover from stroke

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Larry Melancon visited Churchill Downs twice during the final few days of the meet as the retired jockey continues to recover from a debilitating stroke he suffered March 3 while vacationing in North Carolina.

Melancon is wheelchair-bound while undergoing physical therapy, with the primary damage from the stroke being paralysis on his lower left side and a tendency for sensory overload. He speaks clearly and strongly and said part of his inspiration to make a full recovery stems from the outpouring of support he has received from his many friends in the racing community.

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“The doctors say if I keep improving, I could be walking again in the fall,” said Melancon, accompanied by his wife, Denise.

Melancon, 61, retired in July 2010 from a riding career that spanned nearly four decades. From nearly 21,000 career mounts, he had more than 2,800 winners and $60 million in mount earnings. He is the fifth-leading jockey in Churchill history with 914 wins.

◗ The 200 members of the Arlington Park Racing Club can expect to see their newest acquisition in action soon after the ownership group won a six-way shake for Clever Serve following her victory in the sixth race Thursday at Churchill, a $30,000 maiden-claiming race at a mile. Wayne Catalano is the new trainer.

Clever Serve, a 3-year-old filly by To Honor and Serve, was dropping in for a claiming tag from a series of maiden special weight races. She prevailed by nearly 10 lengths for trainer Neil Howard.

◗ Classic Empire, one of the leading contenders for the July 30 Haskell at Monmouth Park, was scheduled to breeze this coming week at Churchill prior to leaving for Saratoga in the company of other Mark Casse-trained horses.

Scratched as the likely favorite for the June 10 Belmont Stakes with a foot abscess, Classic Empire has been training with a custom-fitted bar shoe at Churchill since June 16. He was second in the May 20 Preakness in his most recent start.

◗ Churchill is normally closed for simulcasting on Mondays and Tuesdays during its offseason but will keep open its second-floor customer-service area inside Gate 17 through the July 4 holiday as the Ellis meet gets under way.