02/19/2010 12:00AM

Search on for statue of durable Perennial


A statue of a battle-scarred gelding named Perennial once graced the entrance of Latonia Race Course, which was renamed Turfway Park shortly after Jerry Carroll bought the Florence, Ky., track in 1986.

Perennial, a foal of 1967, won 46 of an amazing 216 career races, many of them at Latonia, before finishing last of 11 in his final start at age 15 at River Downs on Aug. 16, 1982. The statue served as a tribute to his longevity and durability, but at some point early in the Carroll era, which lasted until 1998, when the Keeneland Association bought the track, the statue was removed and given to Gene York, the jockey who rode Perennial in many of his races.

York died last year, however, and it seems that a number of people in the Thoroughbred industry are having a difficult time locating his family members, including Michael Blowen of the Old Friends retirement farm, Sherry Pinson of Turfway, and Les Instone of twinspires.com.

Blowen, who founded Old Friends in Georgetown, Ky., in 2000, is trying to get out the word that he would like to reclaim the statue and put it on permanent display at the farm as an acknowledgment of old warhorses everywhere.

Legitimate stars such as Alysheba, Thunder Gulch, Serena's Song, and Silver Charm raced at Turfway at least once in their careers, but it is horses such as Perennial who have always been the backbone of the track. Turfway archives include quite a bit of information on Perennial, and he is always prominently mentioned in historical reviews of the track, which was founded in 1959.

Besides racing at major tracks such as Del Mar and Keeneland, Perennial was a true fan favorite who also ran at long-gone tracks such as Shenandoah Downs in West Virginia, Bowie in Maryland, Ak-Sar-Ben in Nebraska, and Commonwealth Race Course (once Miles Park) in Kentucky.

Churchill lights on schedule

The permanent lights project at Churchill Downs essentially remains on schedule despite harsh winter weather in the Louisville, Ky., area. Track spokesman John Asher said Friday that all the lighting structures are in place and that wiring and other support work should be completed in time for testing the lights on or about April 1.

"We're expecting to have everything ready to go before the meet starts," said Asher of the April 24 opening date.

Churchill used a temporary lighting system when it conducted three night programs last summer before announcing last fall that permanent lights would be installed. The track will conduct four night programs at the 2010 spring meet, starting June 11, and two at the fall meet.

Turfway may card extra races

Turfway does not plan to make up the two dates (Feb. 6-7) lost to weather but "might tack on a race here or there," according to the track's assistant racing secretary, Tyler Picklesimer.

Starting March 4, Turfway will add Thursdays to its schedule, which during January and February had been just three days a week (Friday-Sunday). Historically, races have been difficult for Turfway to fill in March, when many stables have yet to return to Kentucky from their warmer winter bases. The meet ends March 28, with Keeneland starting April 2.

Trainer, jockey races tight

The trainer and jockey races at the Turfway winter-spring meet that began Jan. 1 continue to be close.

Into Friday action, Mike Maker held a one-win lead (12-11) over Joe Woodard atop the trainer standings, while John McKee, with 30 wins, narrowly led the jockey standings over Tommy Pompell (27) and Rex Stokes (26).

* The Sunday feature at Turfway goes as the eighth race, a $26,700 allowance that drew seven fillies and mares at a mile over Polytrack, with Kentucky Peaches and Complicity the likely favorites. The nine-race card starts at 1:10 p.m. Eastern.

* Churchill launched its 2010 Kentucky Oaks website last week and plans to release nominations for the April 30 race sometime this week.