09/09/2003 11:00PM

Offlee Wild looks strong for comeback


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Offlee Wild has not raced since finishing 12th in the May 3 Kentucky Derby, although that was not the original plan. Trainer T.V. Smith had hoped to make some noise this summer by running Offlee Wild in a cozy spot or two, but a minor setback changed all that.

"He came up with a little filling in his tendon shortly after the Derby," Smith said Wednesday at his Churchill Downs barn. "So I had to back off. Actually, it may have been a blessing in disguise."

Saturday, Offlee Wild will return to action at Turfway Park as one of the major contenders in the $100,000 Kentucky Cup Sprint, one of five races that make up the 10th annual Kentucky Cup series at the Florence, Ky., track. Smith believes Offlee Wild, a Wild Again colt owned by the Azalea Stables of Lansdon Robbins, "is stronger than ever" leading up to the Grade 3 Sprint, a six-furlong race restricted to 3-year-olds.

"Unless somebody just dazzles, I think we should be really competitive in there," said Smith. "I'd really rather start back in something like a flat mile, but there aren't any of those races around right now. You've got to start somewhere, and this was the best spot."

Offlee Wild became a player in the 3-year-old ranks in January when he won the Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park at 27-1. After a fourth in the Fountain of Youth, Offlee Wild missed the Florida Derby when he came down with a minor illness. After that, as Smith played catch-up to make the Kentucky Derby, Offlee Wild finished a distant third behind Peace Rules in the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland.

Duly refreshed and regrouped, Offlee Wild has been training extremely well toward his Saturday comeback, according to Smith. "There's supposed to be a big field, which actually could help us," he said. "We sure won't be on the front end down the backside, but if there's too much speed in there, we could really be coming on."

The probable favorite in the KC Sprint is Champali, the Greg Foley-trained colt who won three stakes earlier this year at Turfway. Champali had his final sharpener Wednesday when he breezed a half-mile in 47 seconds over a fast Churchill surface.

Jon Court will ride Offlee Wild and Pat Day will be aboard Champali. Other probables for the KC Sprint include Cajun Beat, Cat Genius, Clock Stopper, Coach Jimi Lee, Comic Truth, Fifteen Rounds, Gold Storm, Salty Genius, and Skeet.

Entries for all five Kentucky Cup races were to be drawn Thursday.

Everyday Angel ailing

The Kentucky Cup lost one of its most promising starters Wednesday when Everyday Angel, the Pat Byrne-trained filly who won a Saratoga maiden race by 12 1/2 lengths, was declared out of the $100,000 KC Juvenile Fillies because of a lung infection.

Byrne said Everyday Angel, owned by Richard Nip, still could make the Sept. 27 Arlington-Washington Lassie. "We'll treat her with antibiotics for a few days and see how she is," Byrne said at Churchill. "She didn't have a temperature, but she did have some mucus in her lungs and has been coughing quite a bit."

Everyday Angel, by Forestry, was a highly impressive winner of an Aug. 11 maiden race at Saratoga under Shane Sellers. Byrne had wanted to run her in the Kentucky Cup and the Oct. 3 Alcibiades Stakes leading into the Oct. 25 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies.

"Dave Vance ran Caressing in the Lassie, and she won the Breeders' Cup" three years ago, said Byrne. "Hopefully we can do the same thing."

With Everyday Angel out, a field of about nine 2-year-olds was shaping up for the one-mile KC Juvenile Fillies, the only ungraded race in the series. Class Above, trained by Bob Baffert, and Sweet Jo Jo, winner of the Ellis Park Debutante, now are the probable favorites.

Field of five likely for Classic

With Congaree and Perfect Drift set for the richest race of the Kentucky Cup, the $350,000 Classic, Turfway officials have been able to find only three other horses for the Grade 2 race.

With weights and riders, the probable lineup for the 1 1/8-mile Classic is Congaree, 124, Edgar Prado; Perfect Drift, 120, Pat Day; Crafty Shaw, 115, Shane Sellers; Even the Score, 115, Robby Albarado; and M B Sea, 113, Cornelio Velasquez.

Smok'n Frolic heads large group

Smok'n Frolic, one of the favorites for the Grade 3, $175,000 Turfway Breeders' Cup, was among a handful of horses scheduled to arrive Thursday at Turfway following a charter flight from New York. Smok'n Frolic, trained by Todd Pletcher, already has earned more than $600,000 this year for Dogwood Stable.

A big field of fillies and mares is likely for the 1 1/16-mile Turfway Breeders' Cup, the second richest race of the series. The other probables are Awesome Humor, Barney's Mistress, Country Romance, Desert Gold, Mayo on the Side, Pocus Hocus, Reason to Talk, Red N'Gold, Salzurita, and Win's Fair Lady.

Pomeroy likely favorite in Juvenile

Pomeroy, a distant second behind Cuvee last month in the Saratoga Special, also was booked on the New York charter. Pomeroy, trained by Patrick Biancone, could be the favorite in what is shaping up as a field of about nine 2-year-olds in the Grade 3, $100,000 KC Juvenile.

Other probables for the 1 1/16-mile Juvenile are Bogangles, Bustin' Out, Desert Patrol, Mr. Jester, Proper Prado, Ravadon, Ruler's Court, and Toin and Boin.

Two stakes Saturday at Kentucky Downs

Kentucky Downs, the turf-only track located just outside the south-central Kentucky town of Franklin, begins its seven-day meet Saturday with four races, including two $45,000 stakes.

The Kentucky Downs races will be merged into a 14-race simulcast card with 10 from Turfway, with the Kentucky Downs races being carded as the second, fourth, sixth, and eighth. The two stakes are the Yaqthan and the Pleasant Temper, both run at one mile.

The highlight of the Kentucky Downs meet comes next Saturday (Sept. 20) with four Kentucky Cup grass races. Purses for those races total $500,000.

Kentucky Cup TV coverage

The Kentucky Cup races at Turfway will be carded as races 9 through 13, in this order: Juvenile Fillies, Juvenile, Classic, Turfway BC, and Sprint. Normally, the Classic is carded last in the series but it was changed this year for television considerations. Fox Sports Net will televise two of the races, including the Classic, during a one-hour broadcast that begins at 5 p.m. Eastern. Television Games Network will have live coverage of the other races.

The 14-race card begins at 1:10 p.m. Eastern. The weather forecast for Saturday in the greater Cincinnati region calls for mostly sunny skies and a high temperature of about 81. Ontrack admission to the Kentucky Cup is free for the first time this year.

Melancon's mother dies

September began in a bittersweet way for jockey Larry Melancon. On Labor Day, Melancon rode Tiger Hunt to win the $200,000 Cradle Stakes at River Downs.

But Melancon's joy soon turned to sadness. After the Cradle, Melancon drove to his hometown of Breaux Bridge, La., where his mother, Winona Champagne, was in the final stages of cancer.

"We got there Tuesday morning," said Melancon. "My mom died Wednesday."

Champagne, 68, was a horse trainer for over 30 years. Her greatest career win came when she saddled Kazliv, ridden by her son, to win the 1999 Gentilly Handicap at Fair Grounds.