09/14/2006 12:00AM

Six days of European-style racing


The spectacle of European-style racing returns to Kentucky Downs when the turf-only track opens for its annual six-day meet Saturday in Franklin, Ky.

The unique flavor of Kentucky Downs, where an asymmetrical and undulating layout lends itself to a brand of racing quite unlike what is conducted on a daily basis elsewhere in the United States, is the obvious allure of the abbreviated stand. Horsemen frequently say the change of pace is a refreshing one, and their collective attitude toward Kentucky Downs is reflected in the track's reputation for offering sizable fields.

That trend is encapsulated in the opening-day feature, the $40,000 Pleasant Temper Stakes, a one-mile race that drew more than the 12-horse limit. Bill Mott, whose five wins here last fall led all trainers, will ship one of the likely favorites, Orma Giusta, down for the Pleasant Temper from his Kentucky base, Churchill Downs, in the care of assistant Kenny McCarthy.

Mott's former longtime assistant Ralph Nicks has another of the logical contenders in Dynamist, a 4-year-old Dynaformer filly who already is a minor stakes winner but remains eligible for second-level allowance conditions.

"We're just trying to find her a spot to get back to the winner's circle and get the momentum going in the right direction," said Nicks.

The Pleasant Temper is one of four Kentucky Downs races that are being blended into a 14-race Saturday program with sister track Turfway Park. True to its irregular layout, Kentucky Downs maintains an irregular schedule, with a total of 44 races spread through a six-day meet, which ends Sept. 26.

As usual, the highlight of the meet comes Sept. 23 with the Kentucky Cup turf series. Three stakes worth a total of $400,000 are on tap that afternoon, led by the Grade 3, $200,000 Kentucky Cup Turf at 1 1/2 miles.

Besides the Pleasant Temper and three other races, opening day also features a ballcap giveaway to the first 1,000 customers and the third annual wiener dog challenge, pitting the fastest dachshunds in the region.

Luke Kruytbosch, the longtime race-caller at Churchill and Ellis Park, will be back in the wooden announcing stand at the Kentucky Downs finish line. With Kentucky Downs filling several holes in the Kentucky racing schedule, the next dark day in the state will be Oct. 2.