05/05/2009 11:00PM

Nursery Rhyme tries to keep Wilkes rolling


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - No, he didn't have a stake in Calvin Borel winning the Kentucky Derby - at least not this time around. Two years ago, however, Ian Wilkes was savoring the first Derby win for Borel, having played a major role in the conditioning of Street Sense as the right-hand man to trainer Carl Nafzger.

Aside from getting a vicarious thrill from watching Borel win another Derby by skimming the Churchill Downs rail with longshot Mine That Bird, Wilkes had a terrific 2009 Derby weekend of his own. About an hour after winning a tough allowance race with Warrior's Reward on the Kentucky Oaks undercard, Wilkes sent out Miss Isella with Borel aboard to upset previously unbeaten One Caroline in the Grade 2 Louisville Distaff Stakes.

Wilkes will try to sustain that momentum Friday evening at Churchill when he saddles one of the obvious contenders in the ninth-race feature, a $52,700 second-level allowance at 6 1/2 furlongs. Nursery Rhyme, with Julien Leparoux to ride, will be looking to improve over a fourth-place finish in a similar allowance over Polytrack at Keeneland in her latest race.

A field of six fillies and mares, with a maximum of just five betting interests, will line up in the Friday feature, part of the first twilight card of the meet, with first post set for 2:45 p.m. Eastern.

Nursery Rhyme, true to a late-running style employed by most Wilkes horses, will be looking to rally in what looks like a race without much pace. Emma Darling, fresh from an 11-week layoff, is liable to show heels from her rail slot, while Quick Notice, exiting the Grade 3 Sixty Sails at Hawthorne, also figures into the lead group.

Ms. Margaret H. and the Rusty Arnold-trained coupling of Step Out Smartly and Morakami complete the lineup.

Besides the feature, most of the other Friday races drew short fields, too. Like many other North American tracks these days, Churchill has been struggling mightily in attracting a sufficient number of entries for most of its race cards.