04/24/2009 11:00PM

Nan has Dollase kin on the scene


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Craig Dollase is still the youngest trainer to win a Breeders' Cup race, having been age 27 when he saddled Reraise to win the BC Sprint at Churchill Downs in 1998.

And if Nan can somehow pull an upset Friday at Churchill, Dollase might earn another distinction: the most absent trainer to win the Kentucky Oaks.

Instead of traveling to Kentucky, Dollase has opted to stay home in Southern California for the first communion service for his oldest of two daughters, Audrey.

"It's a two-day thing, and it's important enough that I'll be missing the Oaks," said Dollase. "But I've got my dad [trainer Wally Dollase] and my sister [Aimee], who's also my assistant, back there to take care of everything. Hopefully that'll be enough."

Nan is owned by Paul Reddam, who also will have Square Eddie in the Kentucky Derby the following day. Nan figures as a longshot in the Oaks, having most recently finished fifth in the April 4 Ashland Stakes at Keeneland. A Kentucky-bred by High Yield, Nan has won once in 10 career starts. While her only two starts on dirt - both last year for her previous trainer, Mark Hennig - resulted in poor efforts, Dollase believes the filly has improved substantially since then. In a Friday breeze over the Churchill main track, Nan went five furlongs in 1:00.20, the fastest of 39 works at the distance.

"Hopefully she'll do her thing," said Dollase.

Nan is one of seven 3-year-old fillies Churchill officials are expecting when Oaks entries are drawn Tuesday. Rachel Alexandra will be a heavy favorite, with Justwhistledixie a clear-cut second choice. Tweeter, trained by D. Wayne Lukas, is a longshot who joined the prospective lineup Friday, while Be Fair, Gabby's Golden Gal, and Flying Spur round out the likely cast.

Kentucky Juvenile starts stakesfest

The first of the 13 stakes over Derby week at Churchill comes Thursday with the $100,000 Kentucky Juvenile. For years, two stakes were run here on the Thursday before Derby, but the Mamzelle, a turf sprint for fillies and mares, was eliminated from the stakes schedule for this year in a round of Churchill budget-tightening.

The Kentucky Juvenile was among 10 stakes that underwent purse cuts, having been lowered from its previous level of $150,000.

Six stakes will be run here on both Oaks and Derby Day.

Jones returns to emotional site

The last time trainer Larry Jones was here for the Kentucky Derby, he prepared Eight Belles to face the boys. She finished a gallant second, but a quarter-mile past the finish, she fractured both her front legs and had to be euthanized.

Her death became a cause celebre for organizations like the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, and a catalyst for reforms by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, but for those closest to Eight Belles, like Jones, it was simply a gaping emotional wound. Whenever asked about it, he pauses before collecting his thoughts, and delivers them in a subdued voice.

Jones brought Friesan Fire, this year's Kentucky Derby contender, from Keeneland to Churchill Downs on Friday afternoon, along with three other horses he is going to run this week at Churchill Downs. On Saturday, Jones galloped his horses at Churchill, repeatedly going past the spot at the three-quarter pole where the stricken Eight Belles was euthanized.

Back at the barn following his morning chores, Jones played with one of his grandsons, and preferred to look forward, not back.

"Everything's okay," said Jones, who has said he will retire at year's end. "We just had a last time at Keeneland, and now we'll have one more last time to get done."

A race for 3-year-old fillies, formerly known as the La Troienne Stakes, has been renamed in memory of Eight Belles. Jones plans on having two runners in that race, Just Jenda and Warrior Maid. He also has the top sprinter Kodiak Kowboy here for the Churchill Downs Handicap.

* Churchill announced Saturday that a contract has been signed with Youbet.com, marking the third national account-wagering platform that will be accepting bets on Churchill races during the spring meet. Twinspires.com and Xpressbet are the others.

* Churchill has lowered the minimum wager for pick fours to 50 cents, joining a handful of other tracks, including Keeneland, with that lower increment. Dime supers also will be available throughout the meet, with the notable exceptions being Oaks and Derby Days, when a $1 minimum will apply.

* HorseRacing TV is doing a daily Derby workout show from the track at noon Eastern time, with Laffit Pincay III, Jeff Siegel, and Gary Stevens. HRTV will carry the Derby post position draw live on Wednesday, also at noon.

* Churchill unveiled a new graphics package with its opening-day card Saturday. The colorful displays are part of the major upgrading of its simulcast signal, which began last year when the track became the first in the nation to send out its signal in high definition. Among the other improvements in evidence Saturday was the visibility of the large-screen monitor atop the paddock.

- additional reporting by Jay Privman