06/23/2005 12:00AM

Prado will ride Kitten's Joy this year

Kitten's Joy will make his 2005 debut in the Firecracker Breeders' Cup on July 4 at Churchill Downs, his first start since he finished second in the Breeders' Cup Turf on Oct. 30.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Jockey Edgar Prado will be aboard for Kitten's Joy's seasonal debut July 4 in the $250,000 Firecracker Breeders' Cup at Churchill Downs, the latest rider switch owner Ken Ramsey and trainer Dale Romans have made with the colt.

Jerry Bailey was the primary rider for Kitten's Joy last year during the colt's 3-year-old campaign, when he won the Eclipse Award for champion turf horse. But when Bailey was injured in an accident at his home in early September, John Velazquez got the mount for not only the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic in early October, but the Breeders' Cup Turf, even when Bailey was available again. The decision by Ramsey and Romans to rebuff Bailey caused something of a controversy, because some believe a jockey should not lose a prized mount because of injury.

Ramsey and Romans have judiciously dodged any further controversy by going to Prado, who rode Kitten's Joy to victory in the Virginia Derby last July, when Bailey had another committment.

"Why not Edgar?" said Romans. "Talking about Jerry or Johnny would be too political. I liked the way Edgar rode the horse in Virginia last year, and it's pretty obvious he's a great rider. Plus, he's going to stay with the horse all year. We're happy to have him."

Kitten's Joy, who had a knee chip removed shortly after the BC Turf, will have been idle for more than eight months when he makes his return. Because Kitten's Joy ended last year with back-to-back races at 1 1/2 miles, Romans said he is somewhat leery about the one-mile distance of the Firecracker.

"I don't think it's his best distance, but he does have a great turn of foot, and it should be the perfect kind of spot after such a long layoff," he said.

Romans said Kitten's Joy will have his final prerace workout Tuesday on the Churchill turf.

The Firecracker lost one of its main contenders earlier this week when trainer Don Chatlos declared BC Mile winner Singletary out of the race because the horse missed several days of training due to a case of hives. His defection leaves America Alive, Cool Conductor, and Senor Swinger as the top challengers to Kitten's Joy.

Kobiskie picks up first score

Dane Kobiskie, a 26-year-old former Marine who has long aspired to be a jockey, notched his first career victory when he guided 17-1 shot Candy and Flowers to victory in the first race Wednesday.

The mount was just the fourth for Kobiskie since he took a second try at riding. He lost with his first 14 mounts in 2002 at Remington Park before a struggle with weight became too great.

Kobiskie is represented by Steve Elzey, the veteran agent who has brought around many up-and-coming prospects. Kobiskie said he figures to get better mounts and become more prominent when racing shifts to Ellis Park on July 13.

A native of Derby, Kan., Kobiskie said he was trained in electronics in the Marines and did not see combat. He was in the Marine reserves for two years following active duty but broke his leg working a horse and had to drop out.

With his lone Wednesday mount following his winner, Kobiskie finished second aboard Fiore Di Napoli in the 10th race.

Turfway track to be ready in early August

Rick Leigh, who works as a steward at Churchill and Keeneland and is the racing secretary at Turfway Park, said work on the new track surface at Turfway is proceeding as planned. "We're hoping to have it done by early August, so we've got plenty of time for horses to train on it before we actually start racing on it," said Leigh.

The Turfway meeting opens Sept. 8.

In an effort to avoid numerous weather-related cancellations each winter, Turfway is laying down a new Polytrack surface. Polytrack, a mix of wax-coated polymer fibers, silica sand, and recycled rubber, has been in use for nearly a year on the Keeneland training track. Turfway also is installing a new safety rail inside the track.

Leigh said stall applications for the fall meet are now being accepted.

* Apprentice rider Juan Molina Jr. has been suspended five days for his role in the disqualification of his mount, Nickie's Affair, from first to third in the sixth race Sunday. The penalty is scheduled to begin Saturday.