09/06/2004 12:00AM

Roses in May looks to gain steam

Adam Coglianese/NYRA
Roses in May, winning the Whitney 'Cap, will work Thursday for the Kentucky Cup Classic.

FLORENCE, Ky. - More often than not, September begins with the promise of a top-class racehorse setting foot onto Turfway Park before the month is out. And with Dale Romans having pronounced Roses in May as a definite starter for the Kentucky Cup Classic on Sept. 18, the chances seem good for a top Breeders' Cup prospect to emerge once again from the Turfway fall meet, which begins Wednesday.

Roses in May returned to Churchill Downs last week after spending the summer at Saratoga, where his gutsy victory in the Aug. 7 Whitney Handicap stands out as one of the more memorable performances of that meet. Trainer Dale Romans said Roses in May likely would have an important workout Thursday at Churchill.

"That should do us for the Kentucky Cup," said Romans. "He's been doing great since the Whitney, and I think he's ready to run another big race. I like the way the Kentucky Cup sets up for us for several reasons. But the main thing is to get him to the Breeders' Cup healthy."

Roses in May will be ridden by John Velazquez in the $350,000 KC Classic, a 1 1/8-mile race that also may get the Whitney runner-up, Perfect Drift, and either of the Neil Howard duo of Midway Road or Alumni Hall.

Romans said he also plans to run Angela's Love, winner of the Gardenia at Ellis Park, in one of the four supporting events in the Kentucky Cup series, the $175,000 Turfway BC.

Turfway officials said they hoped to be able to count in more notable horses for the Kentucky Cup after the nominations deadline passes Wednesday.

Glass half full for Elliston

Stop us if you've heard this before: Turfway is struggling, the riverboat casinos are killing them, full-card simulcasting in Ohio hasn't helped, the need for alternative gaming continues to build. . . .Okay, enough already.

For all its well-publicized woes of recent years, there is still plenty of room for optimism at Turfway, said track president Bob Elliston.

"We were up nearly 10 percent in our off-season simulcasting since the winter-spring meet ended, which amounts to about $2.5 million in gross handle," said Elliston. "That's a good sign. Our FasTrack rewards program is nearly two years old now and really is showing powerful results. Our ontrack promotions are really catching on with a younger crowd, especially Friday nights in the fall. It really rocks here that night."

Elliston, who is very active in political and outside business circles that pertain to the racing industry, said he believes steady progress is being made in regard to Kentucky tracks ultimately getting slots.

"The creation of KEEP [Kentucky Equine Education Project] should be of tremendous help to the industry," said Elliston. "I'm extremely optimistic about our future because of KEEP and some other things going on right now."

Racing action heavy this month

September always is a busy month of racing in this region. Besides the five-day week at Turfway, there is also live action some 90 minutes away at Hoosier Park in Indiana and an abbreviated meet at Kentucky Downs, which will run its first of six days Sept. 18.

The $500,000 Kentucky Cup turf series is set for Sept. 25 at the Franklin, Ky., track.

First Rowland Award to be presented

Turfway has announced that the first Michael F. Rowland Award will be presented the evening of Sept. 17. The memorial award was created to honor a jockey who exemplifies the spirit and qualities Rowland showed throughout his outstanding riding career.

Balloting among jockeys has been conducted at nine regional tracks, resulting in five finalists for the first award: Ivan Gonzalez, Luis Gonzalez, Perry Ouzts, DeShawn Parker, and James Sunseri.

Rowland, who won nearly 4,000 races, died in February as a result of injuries suffered in a spill at Turfway.

At a glance: Turfway Park

RACING SCHEDULE: Wednesday through Oct. 7 (22 days).

POST TIMES: Weeknights, 7 p.m. Eastern; weekends, 1:10 p.m.

ADMISSIONS: Free, including Kentucky Cup Day.

PARKING: General, free; valet, $3.

HIGHLIGHTS: $825,000, five-race Kentucky Cup series on Sept. 18, led by G2, $350,000 KC Classic; three other stakes.

PURSES: About $155,000 per card.

LOCATION: Turfway Road, just off exit 182 off I-71/75 in Florence, Ky.

PHONE: (859) 371-0200 or (800) 733-0200.

INTERNET: www.turfway.com.