04/24/2008 12:00AM

Oaks and Derby cards get purse hike


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - As if 12 stakes, all but one of them graded, weren't good enough, Churchill Downs racing officials are looking to beef up the Kentucky Oaks and Derby cards next weekend by increasing the purses for all allowance and maiden races on those two programs.

Churchill racing secretary Ben Huffman said the undercard is being "supercharged" by bumping purses for overnight races by 25 percent.

"Frankly, the last couple of years we haven't been satisfied with field size in our undercard races on those two days," said Huffman. "By putting up more money, we thought we'd get a few extra runners, hopefully more. These are our two biggest days of the year, and we want to maximize what we're offering to fans across the country by getting everything we can out of all our races."

As examples, the same category of maiden race with a $49,300 purse on Tuesday will be worth $61,000 on Derby Day, and a $53,800 allowance race on Wednesday will be worth $67,000 on Oaks Day. There are no claiming races on Oaks Day or Derby Day.

Eleven races will be carded Friday, with the Oaks going as the 10th, while 12 races will be set for Saturday, with the Derby also run as the 10th.

No dime supers on biggest days

Racing fans across North America have become accustomed to 10-cent superfecta wagering, and although Churchill began accepting the bets last year, the track will revert to its policy of $1-minimum superfectas on Oaks and Derby days.

Churchill general manager Jim Gates long has maintained that dime supers tend to prolong a customer's time at the window and therefore clog betting lines, and on major days such as the Oaks and Derby, it simply is not practical for the dime supers to be available. Dime supers also will not be available at simulcast outlets on Oaks and Derby days because the smaller increments would create a potentially unfair disadvantage for ontrack customers.

Even on regular days at Churchill, dime supers are available only at self-service terminals and not at manned betting windows.

On another wagering matter, the Super High Five, which was first offered in Kentucky at the recent Keeneland meet, also is now being offered on the last race each day at Churchill, with the same rules applying: a $1 minimum, and a jackpot carryover if no one correctly selects the first five finishers in order.

Pitts gallops Einstein for Woodford

Trainer Helen Pitts came off the racetrack breathing nearly as hard as her horse after open-galloping Einstein twice around the Churchill Downs turf course at the tail end of training hours on Thursday.

"He will wear you out now," Pitts said of the Grade 1 winner. "He just thrives on going out and galloping like that and he felt great. I just wanted to let him open his lungs a little today with a nice, strong gallop and then bring him back to breeze easily on the dirt on Sunday. That should set him up perfectly for the next one."

Einstein's next race will be the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve on the Kentucky Derby undercard. Einstein will enter the Woodford off a courageous second-place finish behind Breeders' Cup Mile winner Kip Deville in Keeneland's Grade 1 Maker's Mark Mile.

"I was tickled to death by his performance at Keeneland," said Pitts. "To place in a Grade 1 behind a Breeders' Cup winner at a distance that wasn't our best was fantastic - especially with him getting bottled up on the turn like he did. And he always gets stronger the further he goes."

Curlin expected to breeze Monday

Curlin, the 2007 Horse of the Year trained by Steve Asmussen, is scheduled to breeze for the first time since he won the March 29 Dubai World Cup on Monday at Churchill, said assistant trainer Scott Blasi. Curlin recently moved to Churchill from Keeneland, where he began galloping daily after returning from Dubai by way of a quarantine stopover in New York. Asmussen has not announced a next start for the colt.

Prolific winner Golden Hare in for tag

Golden Hare, the winningest horse in North America in 2007 with 14 victories, is eligible to be claimed for the first time in nearly two years when he goes postward in the fourth race Saturday at Churchill, a $40,000 claiming sprint on turf.

Blasi is the owner and Asmussen the trainer of Golden Hare, an 8-year-old gelding who has won a remarkable 20 of 25 starts since being claimed for $3,500 at Remington Park on Aug. 22, 2006.

HRTV crew on the grounds

HRTV broadcasters and production staff will be all over the place this week at Churchill. The racing-only cable network will be airing its "Target Louisville" and "RaceDay America" programs live from Churchill, as well as providing racing coverage from here and other tracks. Among the personalities who will be here through Derby Week are Laffit Pincay 3rd, Jeff Siegel, Gary Stevens, Scott Hazelton, and Carolyn Conley.

* Retired Hall of Fame jockey Pat Day was on the Churchill backstretch handing out invitations Thursday morning to the Race for Grace, the annual Derby Week fundraiser hosted by the Kentucky Race Track Chaplaincy. Many racing personalities are planning to attend the dinner and live auction Monday night in the Triple Crown Room at Churchill. Tickets cost $125 and are available by calling (502) 314-4676.

* As usual, the only Tuesday card of the meet will be held during Derby Week. The Tuesday program effectively makes up for the Sunday after the Derby, when cleanup efforts make it impossible to race, although the nearby Trackside simulcast annex will be open for business that day.

- additional reporting by Mike Welsch