11/19/2008 1:00AM

Sirmione tries to go out a winner

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Steve Penrod is about as old school as it gets these days. After the Churchill Downs fall meet ends Nov. 29, Penrod will start winding down and temporarily dispersing what remains of his small stable. Shortly after Christmas, off he will go to Aiken, S.C., for the winter.

"I don't race in the winter anymore," said Penrod, 56.

The economics of racing being what they are, it has been decades since many owners or trainers have been willing to lay up in South Carolina for the winter, a schedule once followed by racing giants such as Rokeby Stable, Greentree Stable, Horatio Luro, and Frank Whiteley. Penrod, a trainer since 1982, will pick up in the early spring at Churchill, but one of the seven horses he now trains, Sirmione, won't be returning to Barn 41.

"She's being retired to be bred," said Penrod.

There's still a little business to attend to, however, before that happens. Sirmione, bred and owned by Clovelly Farms, looks like she will be a major contender when the feature race, a third-level allowance, is run Friday on the Churchill turf course.

With John McKee to ride, Sirmione will break from post 6 in a field of seven fillies and mares entered in the fourth of 10 races. A 4-year-old filly by Cozzene, Sirmione has mostly kept stakes company in recent months and was good enough to earn black type in July when she rallied to win the HBPA Handicap at Ellis Park.

"We got lucky and won that little stake at Ellis this summer," said Penrod, a winner of 22 stakes at Churchill. Sirmione, he added, "is pretty typical of the Cozzenes in that she got a lot better from 3 to 4. She's a nice, tough, honest filly."

To get her fourth win from 17 starts, Sirmione most likely will have to contend with Lady Carlock, Tremendous One, and Absolutely Cindy. Of those, Lady Carlock is the most logical wagering favorite after running well in back-to-back minor stakes this past summer on the Saratoga turf.

* The card also includes a second-level turf allowance (race 9), with French Kiss, Rustic Flame, and Lady on Holiday all looking solid among a large field of fillies and mares.