06/21/2005 11:00PM

Numbers up from last year, but not up to par with '03


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - As the Churchill Downs spring meet enters its stretch run, business has been solid, if not booming, with ontrack and all-sources figures showing moderate increases over the spring meet in 2004.

Through Sunday, and with 37 of 52 days complete, daily all-sources handle was averaging $11,609,729 (including Kentucky Oaks and Derby Days), up 6 percent over 2004 but down 10 percent from 2003.

Churchill mutuels director Rick Smith said the all-sources figure is satisfactory compared to how the previous two spring meets unfolded. "We had no intact facility for 2004," he said, referring to the major construction the plant underwent during its $121 million renovation, which was completed in time for the opening of this meet, "and in 2003, we were up an astounding number over previous years, because that was the year the East Coast was pounded by rain, and it seemed like we were the only viable option for many simulcast players."

Ontrack at the current meet, Churchill is up 12 percent over 2004 in both average attendance (16,195) and handle ($1,828,141). Those figures are up 2.3 and 1.8 percent over 2003.

Last Saturday, Stephen Foster Day, all-sources handle for the 11-race card was $13,158,279, up 6.1 percent over last year when 12 races were run, and down marginally from 2003. Ontrack handle of $1,618,497 was up 9.3 percent over last year and up marginally from the previous year.

Romero to Louisiana Hall of Fame

Retired jockey Randy Romero will be inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame on Saturday night at Northwestern Louisiana State University. Romero, a native of Erath, La., is one of eight inductees being honored.

"It's one of the biggest thrills of my life," said Romero, who retired in 1999 with 4,294 wins and over $75 million in mount earnings. "To go back home and be with my family and to be honored like this, there really are no words to describe how good it makes me feel."

Romero, who worked for several years as a jockey's agent and recently began exercising horses at Churchill, becomes the fourth jockey to be inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall, following J.D. Mooney, Eric Guerin, and Eddie Delahoussaye.

America Alive could try Firecracker

Trainer Neil Howard said he is leaning toward trying America Alive, winner of the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic, against the likes of Kitten's Joy, Singletary, and Cool Conductor in the July 4 Firecracker Handicap.

"He breezed good Tuesday and is doing well, so we'll probably head that way," said Howard.

As for several of his other stakes horses, Howard said he has "nothing specific penciled in" for Alumni Hall, "although I'd say his next start will be at Saratoga." He also said Shadow Cast, well beaten as the favorite in the Fleur de Lis last weekend, will be pointed to the July 31 Go for Wand at Saratoga, and that Music School is likely to run in the Bashford Manor Stakes here closing day, July 10.

Guidry, Hernandez Arlington bound

Agent Fred Aime said he and his two jockeys, Mark Guidry and Brian Hernandez Jr., are headed to Arlington Park shortly after Churchill ends.

Guidry, a former longtime kingpin of the Chicago circuit, has ridden mostly at Saratoga during the summers since he moved to Kentucky in the late 1990's.

The Arlington meet runs through Sept. 18, after which both jockeys would return to the Kentucky circuit in plenty of time for the opening of Keeneland on Oct. 7.

Seven expected in Aristides BC field

Racing secretary Doug Bredar said he is looking for about seven older horses to start Saturday in the $150,000 Aristides Breeders' Cup Handicap, the lone stakes here this weekend.

Probable starters for the six-furlong Aristides are Bwana Charlie, 119 pounds; Gators N Bears, 118; Battle Won, 117; Premium Saltine, 115; Level Playingfield, 114; With Distinction, 114; and Kelly's Landing, 113.

Two stakes are scheduled here next weekend: the $150,000 Locust Grove on July 2, and the $250,000 Firecracker on July 4.

Kentucky Cup Mile eliminated

Kentucky Downs, the turf-only track in southern Kentucky, announced Wednesday that the Kentucky Cup Mile has been dropped from the stakes schedule at the six-day meet, to be run Sept. 17-27.

The $100,000 Mile was one of four Kentucky Cup grass races run annually at the Franklin, Ky., track. The other Kentucky Cup races remain as they were: the $200,000 Turf, the $100,000 Ladies, and $100,000 Turf Dash. The Kentucky Cup grass races will be run Sept. 24, one week after the Kentucky Cup dirt races are run at sister track Turfway Park.

General manager Ryan Driscoll said the Mile was eliminated to maintain purse levels in overnight races, saying simulcast business this year at Kentucky Downs has been "challenging."