11/06/2007 1:00AM

Sad ending for Casino Evil

EmailLOUISVILLE, Ky. - Casino Evil was euthanized some 24 hours after breaking down Saturday in the Ack Ack Handicap at Churchill Downs, bringing a sad end to what had been an underdog's tale for a cleverly named colt.

As a weanling, Casino Evil had his right eye surgically removed after a paddock accident - hence the play on words in his name - and despite the setback, the colt was able to become a multiple stakes winner of more than $300,000.

"He was a neat little story," said Mike Tomlinson, who trained Casino Evil for the Haps Stable of Paul Hanifl and Vince Foglia of Illinois. "He acted like he had both eyes, like you could come up behind him on his blind side and somehow he knew you were there. It was like he had a sixth sense."

Casino Evil, a 4-year-old by Salt Lake, shattered the medial sesamoids in his left front leg while racing near the back of the pack approaching the half-mile pole in the Ack Ack. Despite efforts to save him, the colt had to be euthanized Sunday evening at Churchill.

"It was such a shock to all of us, because he was so sound and was doing so good coming into the race," said Tomlinson.

Casino Evil ran the first 10 of his 22 races for Steve Asmussen before being bought privately and turned over to Tomlinson in the spring of 2006. The colt earned a check in all but one of his subsequent starts, not counting the Ack Ack, including victories in the Round Table last summer at Arlington, and, more recently, the Schaefer Mile on closing weekend at Hoosier Park. He closed his career with a 6-5-3 record and earnings of $309,906.

Tomlinson, a 53-year-old Oklahoma native who played college baseball and trained other breeds of horses before switching to Thoroughbreds in 1989, has endured major disappointments in racing before, most notably when he had to scratch his 2003 Arkansas Derby winner, Sir Cherokee, two days before the 129th Kentucky Derby because of an injury.

"Sometimes it feels like there's a shadow hanging over our stable, but we've come back before, and we'll come back from this," said Tomlinson. "This was a tough one, though, because he was such an exceptional little horse. There aren't a lot of horses like him."

Bit of Whimsy points to Mrs. Revere

Bit of Whimsy, winner of the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland last out, will return from New York to run Saturday in the $150,000 Mrs. Revere Stakes at Churchill.

A large field of 3-year-old fillies is expected for the Grade 2 Mrs. Revere, with Bel Air Beauty, Tensas Yucatan, and Lisa M also likely for the 1 1/16-mile turf race.

Three-year-olds on the turf is a common stakes theme this weekend, as colts and geldings will take the spotlight Sunday in the $150,000 Commonwealth Turf. Likely favorites include Inca King, Slew's Tizzy, Equitable, and Elite Squadron.

Clark, Falls City fields take shape

The fall-meet highlights are still more than two weeks away, but it looks like the Nov. 22 Falls City Handicap and Nov. 23 Clark Handicap could already have their favorites committed.

Panty Raid, winner of the Grade 1 Spinster Stakes last month at Keeneland, seems the logical choice for the Grade 2, $300,000 Falls City after skipping the Breeders' Cup, while California shipper Buzzards Bay figures prominently for the Grade 2, $500,000 Clark.

Nominations close Saturday for all five graded stakes to be run here closing weekend. The other races are the $200,000 River City on Nov. 23, and the $250,000 Kentucky Jockey Club and $250,000 Golden Rod on closing day, Nov. 24.

Smoking exemption thrown out

The exemption to the citywide smoking ban granted to Churchill Downs was ruled illegal Monday by a circuit court judge in Louisville.

Smoking has been permitted in the Champions Lounge on the second floor but will no longer be allowed, effective the day after the fall meet ends, Nov. 25. Smoking is still allowed in all open-air sections.

The smoking ban, effective since July, had produced an outcry from local business owners who argued that Churchill had been unfairly given an exemption. Churchill had countered that smoking is allowed across the Ohio River in Indiana at the Caesars riverboat casino, which it considers its most formidable local foe in the gambling business.

* Churchill Downs will stay open Thursday night for football fans to watch the University of Louisville play at West Virginia in a game televised on ESPN. The Upper Jockey Club area will remain open until the game's end, about 11:30 p.m. Simulcast wagering will be available.