06/24/2002 12:00AM

Ms. Cooksey rides again

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Nearly 10 months after her last race, jockey Patti Cooksey will return to the saddle Wednesday when she rides Gold Empress in the fourth race at Churchill Downs.

Cooksey, 44, underwent breast-cancer surgery last September.

"I'm so excited, I feel like a bug girl," said Cooksey. "I just want to get back into action. I watch a race, and it drives me crazy. I want that thrill of competition again."

Cooksey, the all-time leading female rider in Churchill history, won a race at Turfway Park on Sept. 7, then had a mastectomy six days later in Louisville. She began regaining fitness in April with the intention of returning to riding.

Cooksey, who has been working in the Churchill publicity department during her down time, has had many milestones in a career of nearly 23 years, including second-leading North American female rider in wins (behind Julie Krone); second woman to ride in the Kentucky Derby (So Vague, 1984); and first woman to ride in the Preakness (Tajawa, 1985).

The Cooksey comeback is the highlight of a 10-race Wednesday program for which a $42,600 allowance serves as the ninth-race feature. There is no carryover in the pick six.

Romero unable to travel

Ailing ex-jockey Randy Romero was unable to travel to Lone Star Park last week for the All-Star Jockey Championship because of continuing complications with kidney and liver disease.

Romero said he "wished I could have made it" to Lone Star, where he was scheduled to be honored during the All-Star event, "but my doctors don't want me flying anymore. I went to California before I was supposed to go to Texas, and when I got home [to Louisville], I got real sick. They say flying is too hard on my body."

Romero, 44, attended a golf tournament in his honor Monday before heading to a local hospital for dialysis treatment, which he continues to undergo three times a week. He is tentatively scheduled to begin chemotherapy treatment for his liver disease in September.

Albarado back in winner's circle

After returning to action Friday night at the All-Star event at Lone Star, Robby Albarado won with just his second mount here Saturday when Noinbetweeners romped to a sixth-length victory in the third race.

"Good to get that one behind me," said Albarado, who had been out with a fractured finger since June 2.

As for other jockeys injured at this meet: Apprentice Kris Prather hopes to return sometime next month after recovering from an injured pelvis. Apprentice Valerie Nagle is tentatively scheduled to return this week after recovering from a June 8 spill. And journeyman James Lopez has had the pins removed from his fractured wrist and plans to return early next month.

What's next for Voodoo Dancer

Voodoo Dancer, the flashy winner of the Locust Grove on Saturday, returned to New York on Monday after exiting the race in good order, said trainer Christophe Clement.

With the Aug. 17 Beverly D. at Arlington being the main mid-summer goal, Voodoo Dancer likely will run in either the Ramona at Del Mar or the Diana at Saratoga as her one prep in the interim, said Clement.

Guidry is hot

Mark Guidry was easily the hottest jockey at Churchill last week. Guidry won 10 races during the five-day week, including four on Thursday and three on Friday. Guidry and Jon Court figure to battle for second place behind shoo-in winner Pat Day as the meet winds down.

Likewise, trainer Tom Amoss has been exceptionally hot in recent weeks, and his latest string of winning horses has brought him to within two wins of leader Dale Romans (20-18).

* Total handle on the Churchill Downs Simulcast Network pick four Saturday was a healthy $208,904. A winning $1 wager returned $79.70. The bet consisted of races from Churchill, Calder, Arlington, and Hollywood. The CDSN pick four was the first of four to be offered this summer. The others are scheduled for this coming Saturday; July 6; and July 20. Takeout is 19 percent.

* The lone feature of the coming weekend, the $100,000, Grade 3 Aristides Breeders' Cup Handicap on Saturday, is shaping up as a terrific race. Two-time winner Bet on Sunshine will make his second start of the year in the 6 1/2-furlong Aristides when facing Orientate, No Armistice, and probably another three or four older horses.

* Charmed Gift will run next in the July 3 Iowa Oaks at Prairie Meadows, said trainer Neil Howard. Charmed Gift was second behind Take Charge Lady in her most recent start, the May 25 Dogwood Stakes. Howard said he wants to get a stakes win for Charmed Gift, a 3-year-old A.P. Indy filly, and that he did not even bother nominating her to the Grade 1 Mother Goose on Saturday.

* Post time for the final four-day stretch of the Churchill meet (July 4-7) will be 1:10 p.m. Eastern. Twilight post would have been the norm for July 5. The 41-day Ellis Park meet starts July 10.