10/25/2006 12:00AM

Record crowd a Breeders' Cup goal


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The four highest attendance marks in the 22 previous runnings of the Breeders' Cup have all come at Churchill Downs, but apparently that's not good enough for Breeders' Cup officials.

"We have set a goal to try to break the all-time attendance mark this year," said Damon Thayer, the vice president of event management for Breeders' Cup Ltd.

The record attendance was set at the 1998 Breeders' Cup, when 80,452 attended, but there are several factors that suggest the mark may fall this year - although weather, as usual, figures as perhaps the make-or-break variable.

"Of course we're always wanting to catch a break with the weather," said Thayer. But otherwise, he named several reasons that a record crowd might turn out Nov. 4 for the 23rd Breeders' Cup, including the size and quality of the fields; this being the first time since Churchill's $121 million renovation that the Breeders' Cup is here; local fans are eager for another Breeders' Cup, since it has been six years since Churchill last held the event, the longest such span since the track's first in 1988; advertising and promotion of the event saturating the local media; and a reduction of general admission fees (from $25 to $15) available to members of Churchill's rewards members, the Twin Spires Club, or through the Kentucky Lottery Corp. or the Kroger food chain.

"This is the first time in Breeders' Cup history that we've been as aggressive as this, to discount admission through the new marketing strategies we are using this year," said Thayer. "Obviously we are intent on getting as many people out here as we can. We think it's good for the sport, good for the Breeders' Cup and Churchill, good for everyone involved."

All of the nearly 50,000 reserved seats available at Churchill for the Breeders' Cup are sold out, but with attendances of 150,000 and upward at the Kentucky Derby in recent years, the track obviously is equipped to handle huge crowds.

A rookie at public speaking

Michael McCarthy, the Churchill-based assistant to trainer Todd Pletcher, was among a handful of horsemen to attend the Breeders' Cup pre-entry breakfast Wednesday morning in the Churchill stakes room. After being invited to the front of the room to discuss the three Pletcher prospects for the BC Filly and Mare Turf, McCarthy said a few nice things about the stable's top two contenders, Wait a While and Honey Ryder, but then had a momentary lapse when it came time to talk about Quiet Royal, a former French runner who will be making her first start for the stable and figures as one of the longer prices in the race.

McCarthy quickly apologized and drew a big laugh when offering this by way of explanation: "I'm breaking my podium maiden today."

A.P. Arrow likely Fayette favorite

Up the road at Keeneland in Lexington, the 17-day fall meet closes Saturday with the $150,000 Fayette Stakes, for which a very deep field of 13 older horses has been entered.

A.P. Arrow, with Rene Douglas riding for Pletcher, drew smack in the middle in post 7 as the likely favorite in the 1 1/8-mile Fayette.

From the rail, the entire field is Eccentric, Southern Africa, Host, Ball Four, Good Reward, Student Council, A.P. Arrow, Alumni Hall, Kid Grindstone, Andromeda's Hero, Wayzata Bay, Go Now, and Scipion.

The 21-day Churchill fall meet opens Sunday with a pair of features for 2-year-olds, the $100,000 Iroquois and $100,000 Pocahontas.

* Horsemen who need or want to watch the Breeders' Cup races from the Churchill backstretch are being accommodated with a larger stand of bleachers than in previous years. Situated near the clockers' stand outside the five-furlong pole, the bleachers can hold perhaps 300 to 400 people and represent a marked improvement over past Breeders' Cups at Churchill.

* The Kentucky Derby Museum is planning to have ready for Breeders' Cup Week a display to memorialize the work of longtime Daily Racing Form clocker Mickey Solomon. The display will include a variety of tools and memorabilia from Solomon's years in racing, such as the binoculars and stopwatches he used during more than 30 years at Churchill, Keeneland, and other racetracks.