09/19/2004 11:00PM

Roses in May a go for Classic

After winning the Kentucky Cup Classic, jockey John Velazquez presses Roses in May for another eighth-mile.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Roses in May came out of his victory in the Kentucky Cup Classic on Saturday in perfect shape and will resume training Wednesday toward the Oct. 30 Breeders' Cup Classic at Lone Star Park, trainer Dale Romans said Monday at his Churchill Downs base.

"He ate up, walked sound, all that good stuff," said Romans. "Now we'll look forward to going to Texas."

By staying unbeaten in five 2004 starts with his four-length win in the at Turfway Park, Roses in May will attempt to become the first horse since Awesome Again in 1998 to win the Breeders' Cup Classic with a perfect record for the year.

Unfortunately for the connections of Awesome Again, his 6-for-6 record was not good enough to win Horse of the Year that season. Skip Away got the nod from Eclipse Award voters.

"I was disappointed because I thought we had done enough to get it," recalled Churchill-based Pat Byrne, who trained Awesome Again for Stronach Stables.

A similar situation may be unfolding this fall. Romans said that if Roses in May wins the BC Classic, he would be deserving of Horse of the Year with a 6-for-6 mark. But with the record and reputation that Smarty Jones built during his near-miss in the Triple Crown, he is the front-runner for Horse of the Year.

Yet Romans believes that if any of four horses wins the BC Classic - Roses in May, Birdstone, Pleasantly Perfect, or Ghostzapper - then "they should be crowned the champion," he said.

Romans said Roses in May may be sent to Lone Star "a couple weeks out, although I haven't really decided yet. We're going to enjoy this one, see how he does the next few weeks and go from there."

Lukas simmers down

The tempest in a teapot that focused on an incident concerning blinkers for Storied Cat died almost as quickly as it started Saturday.

Trainer D. Wayne Lukas excoriated several Turfway officials for not permitting Storied Cat to wear blinkers in the Kentucky Cup Juvenile. Without the equipment, Storied Cat faded badly to finish fifth of sixth as the 3-5 favorite in the Juvenile.

Lukas thought Storied Cat had worn blinkers in his last start, an Aug. 21 maiden victory at Saratoga, and so believed he did not need to request an equipment change.

But after being assured that a Saratoga replay showed that the colt had not worn blinkers, Lukas apologized profusely to Turfway's president, Bob Elliston, and several other individuals.

"He was all 'Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea culpa,' " said Elliston. "He actually could not have been more gracious about it. As far as we're all concerned, it's over."

Since the 1994 inception of the Kentucky Cup, Lukas has been easily the most prominent figure in the series. His victory Saturday with Susan's Angel in the Turfway Breeders' Cup was his record 14th in Cup history. Bob Baffert, with seven victories, is second.

Overall handle up

All-sources handle on the Kentucky Cup program was up despite major downturns in ontrack attendance and handle, according to business figures released Monday by the track.

Handle on the 10 Saturday races at Turfway was $5,859,539, an increase of about 2.5 percent from last year. Including the additional four Kentucky Downs simulcasts that were interspersed into the card, total handle was more than $7.5 million.

Track officials expressed satisfaction with those numbers, "particularly in light of the short fields we had," said Cliff Reed, vice president of Turfway. A total of 30 horses started in the five Kentucky Cup races.

Turfway reported ontrack attendance of 9,361, down about 17 percent from last year, and ontrack handle (including simulcast imports) of $791,480, down about 23 percent.

Spa survivors on bill

A pair of fillies who made their latest starts at Saratoga figure among the deserving favorites in the $28,600 feature when racing resumes Wednesday night at Turfway.

Amanuensis and Two Mile Hill both were well-beaten in their Saratoga finales but should fit far better at Turfway under second-level allowance conditions. Among the rest of the field is Western Doll, who won the feature race on opening night, Sept. 8, at entry-level conditions after also shipping back to Kentucky from Saratoga.

Just two stakes remain at the Turfway meet: the Marfa on Saturday and the Turfway Fall Championship on Oct. 2. Turfway closes Oct. 7, with action shifting to Keeneland the next day.

Focus on Kentucky Downs turf action

The best racing in the state this weekend will be at Kentucky Downs, the turf-only course located in Franklin, Ky. The four-race, $500,000 Kentucky Cup turf series will be run Saturday, and officials already are piecing fields together for the races: the $200,000 Turf, $100,000 Mile, $100,000 Ladies Turf, and $100,000 Turf Dash.

Rochester, Art Variety, and Sabiango are among the bigger names likely for the Grade 3 Turf. Entries for all four races are to be drawn Wednesday.