11/25/2005 12:00AM

New face in Eclipse picture

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Four-Footed Fotos
Indian Vale routs her rivals in the Grade 2 Falls City, her second stakes win, and runs her record to 5 for 6.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - It may be a simple matter of too little, too late, but the 6 1/2-length thumping that Indian Vale gave older fillies and mares Thursday in the Grade 2 at Churchill Downs may have cast a new light on Eclipse Award voting in the wide-open 3-year-old filly division of 2005.

Indian Vale, an A. P. Indy filly trained by Todd Pletcher, didn't even begin her career until July 2. After her Falls City romp, she is 5 for 5 under John Velazquez and 5 for 6 overall. Her only loss came when Velazquez's agent, Angel Cordero Jr., briefly came out of retirement to ride her at Philadelphia Park in the Oct. 1 Cotillion Stakes, a race in which she faded badly to finish fifth.

"It's a shame that she kind of got a late start to the season, because

I think she's probably one of the best - if not the best - 3-year-old fillies around," said Pletcher. "But she made up ground in a hurry, and to beat older mares of the caliber that she did in only her sixth lifetime start, and now going 5 for 6, she's obviously something special."

Velazquez said Indy Vale is "kind of funky about her racetrack," and that she must not have cared for the Philly Park surface. In regard to the steady improvement she continues to make, he said, "I think if she matures a little more and she gets a little more serious about things she needs to do, she'll be all right."

The Falls City victory was the second in a stakes for Indian Vale, following the Grade 3 Turnback the Alarm at Aqueduct earlier this month. Throughout the course of this year, no 3-year-old filly has stood out for any substantial length of time, and probably the current leading candidates for the Eclipse are Summerly, Smuggler, and Sweet Symphony.

Barns at capacity

In no small part because the Fair Grounds is closed this year in the wake of the Hurricane Katrina disaster, Turfway Park had an unusually large number of stall requests for the winter.

"It was more than double what we normally have," said track president Bob Elliston. "Obviously you never want to capitalize on someone's misfortune, but our barn area is completely full.

Elliston, noting that there were some outfits that didn't want to go to Louisiana Downs for an abbreviated Fair Grounds meet, which began Nov. 19, said, "There are far more horses staying back in Kentucky than usual this year."

Turfway's racing secretary, Rick Leigh, said that because he has a substantially larger horse population from which he can draw races, he expects the depth and quality of racing to be better this winter than in recent memory.

Among the trainers planning to have horses stabled at Turfway throughout the winter are Dale Romans, Dallas Stewart, Greg Foley, David Carroll, Patrick Biancone, Bob Holthus, Chuck Simon, Derek Galvin, Becky Maker, James Jackson, Phil Sims, Angel Montano, Kim Hammond, Rob O'Connor, Glenn Wismer, and John Good.

Leigh said that even when Oaklawn Park begins its meet Jan. 20, the usual exodus of quality horses will not occur.

"At least not to nearly the extent it's happened before," he said.

Political connection

The winner of the last race at Churchill on Thursday, Deputymayormargret, is named for Margret Kellems, the former deputy mayor for public safety and justice of Washington, D.C.

Trained by Walt Bindner Jr., Deputymayormargret, a 4-year-old filly, is owned by Richard and Patricia Lenihan. Kellems, the sister of Patricia Lenihan, resigned her position in government to join a national investment firm in April 2004.

At a glance: Turfway Park

RACING SCHEDULE: 93 days; Sunday through April 6. Holiday meet runs to Dec. 31; winter-spring meet begins Jan. 1. Dark Mondays, Tuesdays, and Dec. 24-25

POST TIMES: Weeknights, 5:30 p.m. Eastern; weekends, holidays, and week of Dec. 26-31, 1:10 p.m.

ADMISSIONS and PARKING: Free (valet parking, $3).

PURSES: About $140,000 per day (holiday meet).

HIGHLIGHTS: Five $50,000 stakes during 25-day holiday meet; winter-spring meet is highlighted by the $500,000 Lane's End Stakes on March 25.

OTHER NOTABLE: First winter using weather-resistant Polytrack.

LOCATION: Just off Interstate 71-75 exit at Turfway Rd. in Florence, Ky.

PHONE: (859) 371-0200 or (800) 733-0200.

INTERNET: www.turfway.com.