09/30/2005 12:00AM

Pletcher to send string for Keeneland, Churchill


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Todd Pletcher, the leading trainer in North America this year with more than $13 million in purse earnings going into this weekend, said he is expanding his stable into Kentucky this fall and will have as many as 26 horses ready to compete at the upcoming Keeneland and Churchill Downs fall meets.

Pletcher normally sends a large string of horses to the Keeneland spring meet, where he was the leading trainer in April, but this is the first time since early in his solo training career that he will maintain a presence in Kentucky in the fall. The horses will be stabled at Churchill.

"I had some horses at [Louisville Trackside] when I first started in 1996," he said. "I'm wanting to see if this will go and whether I'll want to try it again next year."

Pletcher currently has horses at several East Coast tracks, with his best ones based at Belmont Park. He said the makeup of the Kentucky contingent, which will be overseen by Michelle Nihei, will be "horses from a little bit of everywhere. We'll be in there for a lot of the stakes at Keeneland, and then as Churchill gets closer, I'll take a good look at the condition book and see which horses fit the best."

Keeneland runs Friday through Oct. 29, after which Churchill runs through Nov. 26.

Turfway expects a run on stall space

Stall applications for the four-month winter-spring meet at Turfway are just now starting to filter back into the office of racing secretary Rick Leigh, who expects this year to be unlike any other because of the cancellation of the Fair Grounds meet in New Orleans.

"Stall space is going to be at a premium everywhere this winter," said Leigh.

With Fair Grounds closed in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, many Kentucky trainers who normally would have wintered in New Orleans are considering staying home. Turfway, with its new all-weather Polytrack surface, has become an attractive alternative.

"I don't know what I'm going to do," said Leigh. "We've only got 900 stalls, and I'm sure we're going to be overwhelmed with requests. Some really tough decisions are going to have to be made."

Turfway ends its 22-day fall meet Thursday. The winter-spring meet begins Nov. 27.

Breeders' Cup hopefuls line up

As always, opening weekend at Keeneland figures to have a major impact on the Breeders' Cup, with many trainers looking to get an ideal prep leading up to the Oct. 29 championships at Belmont.

Here is an early look at some of the top names likely for those races:

Oct. 7 Darley Alcibiades: Dixie Dreamer, Coolwind, Ex Caelis, She Says It Best.

Oct. 8 Shadwell Mile: Alinghi, Cool Conductor, Durban Thunder, Host, Three Valleys.

Oct. 8 Lane's End Breeders' Futurity: Laity, Reaffirmed, Stream Cat, Too Much Bling.

Oct. 8 Phoenix Breeders' Cup: Bwana Charlie, Fifteen Rounds, Level Playingfield.

Oct. 9 Juddmonte Spinster: Bending Strings, Halory Leigh, Indy Groove, Isola Piu Bella.

Oct. 9 WinStar Galaxy: Intercont-inental, Shaconage, Ticker Tape.

Two tracks to honor Pat Day

Keeneland and Churchill both recently announced that they will honor retired Hall of Fame jockey Pat Day at their upcoming meets.

Keeneland will help Day celebrate his 52nd birthday on Oct. 13 with a question-and-answer session before that day's racing program. Numerous other activities have been planned to publicly acknowledge Day as the track's all-time leading rider.

Likewise, Churchill will host "Pat's Day" on Nov. 12, with a variety of activities and giveaways that will conclude with a fundraising roast after the races. Tickets are $200.

Day retired in early August from a 32-year riding career during which he won 8,803 races, fourth-highest in history.

No scholarship raffle at Churchill

Churchill has become the first Kentucky track to turn down the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association in co-sponsoring a Scholarship Day raffle at the fall meet. The KTA began offering $10,000 in college scholarships once every meet at Keeneland, eventually expanding the program to the four major Kentucky tracks.

The next Scholarship Day is scheduled for Oct. 14 at Keeneland.

* Trackside at Churchill Downs will host a $20,000 handicapping contest on Oct. 15, with the winner getting an automatic berth in the $500,000 Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Champion-ship in Las Vegas in January. Entry fee is $100 for Twin Spires Club members and $125 for non-members. For more information, call (502) 636-4452.