05/13/2007 11:00PM

Rush Bay lives on to breed


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - In the blink of an eye, Rush Bay went from cruising to an apparent victory in his season debut to never being able to race again.

Rush Bay, a 5-year-old horse who finished a respectable fourth last fall in the Breeders' Cup Turf in his most recent start, suffered a badly torn suspensory ligament in his left foreleg when surrendering the lead in deep stretch in the sixth race at Churchill Downs on Saturday, losing by a nose to Junior College. Galloping out, Rush Bay fell in the clubhouse turn, and trainer Tom Amoss feared the worst.

"I think it actually happened very near the wire," said Amoss. "I watched him gallop out, and he was smooth as silk, then all of a sudden he got very abrupt. I thought he had broken his leg when he fell, and I thought, 'Oh my God.' So we felt very, very fortunate that it wasn't that."

Rush Bay, a homebred owned by Phoebe Mueller, finished his career with more than $740,000 in earnings from 18 starts. Amoss said Rush Bay, by Cozzene, will be able to stand at stud next year, although it has not been determined where that will be.

"He was great to us," said Amoss. "We're just happy that he's healthy enough to be a stallion."

Southern Flu out to get barn rolling

As the top assistant to Carl Nafzger, the trainer of Street Sense, Ian Wilkes obviously has a huge week ahead of him. Wilkes will be in Baltimore when Street Sense runs Saturday in the 132nd Preakness Stakes, but before that, he will try to start his week on a winning note when he sends out Southern Flu Wednesday in the eighth-race feature, an entry-level allowance with a $50,000 purse.

Calvin Borel, the rider of Street Sense, has the call on Southern Flu, a Dixie Union filly who was assigned post 5 in a field of 10 fillies and mares entered in the seven-furlong race. Although she finished ninth in her most recent race, it was on Polytrack at Keeneland, and a return to dirt may be enough to make her a serious challenger.

Other contenders in the Wednesday feature include Nonesuch Kiss and Miss Paddy O'Slew, the respective two-three finishers under identical allowance conditions on April 21 at Keeneland.

The Wednesday program marks the beginning of the weekly handicapping contest at Churchill. The finals are on July 5, with cash prizes and berths in the DRF National Handicapping Finals next winter in Las Vegas at stake.

Minister's Bid grinds out win in return

Minister's Bid made a successful return to action Sunday at Churchill, grinding out a victory in a second-level allowance race. With Rafael Bejarano riding for trainer John T. Ward Jr., Minister's Bid had company all the way, forcing the pace then being kept to pressure to win by three-quarters of a length over the Amoss-trained Forest Phantom.

Minister's Bid had not raced since he was badly beaten by Bernardini and Bluegrass Cat last August in the Travers Stakes at Saratoga, a disappointing effort that followed a runner-up finish in the Jim Dandy. He earned an 85 Beyer Speed Figure on Sunday, running the seven furlongs in 1:23.79.

Bejarano pressing Leparoux

With 11 of 52 days at the spring meet complete, Julien Leparoux has been atop the jockey standings since opening week, although Rafael Bejarano has been showing signs of making a race of it. Bejarano rode four winners Friday and three on Sunday, giving him 15, three fewer than Leparoux. Robby Albarado, with 14 wins, and Borel, with 13, also are in the hunt.

* The lone stakes race at Churchill this weekend is the $100,000 Matt Winn Stakes on Saturday. Racing officials are looking at a prospective field of at least seven 3-year-olds, led by Carnacks Choice, winner of the Lafayette Stakes last month at Keeneland, and Derby Trial runner-up U D Ghetto. Other probables for the six-furlong race are Demarcation, Probation Ready, Run Alex Run, Spin Master, and Weather Warning.

* Officials at Ellis Park and the Claiming Crown announced that 325 horses, the most in series history, were nominated to the Aug. 4 event at the Henderson, Ky., track. Purses for the seven-race series will total $600,000. This is the first year for Ellis to host the Claiming Crown, which had been run at Canterbury Park in Minnesota since its inception in 1999, except for one year when it was held at Philadelphia Park.