05/09/2002 12:00AM

Smack in the nose doesn't hinder Day


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Maybe Pat Day should take a shot on the nose more often. Day rode four winners here Wednesday, his first day of action since Derby day, when he suffered what could be a broken nose.

Day's mount in the Churchill Downs Handicap, Dream Run, stumbled badly two steps out of the gate. When Dream Run recovered from his near-fall, his head came up and thwacked an off-balance Day squarely on the nose.

Day, badly dazed, attempted to pull up Dream Run soon thereafter, but the colt would not comply. Dream Run ended up finishing far behind because of the incident.

Day returned to the unsaddling area covered with blood. He persevered through the rest of the Derby Day card and actually won both races after the Derby.

Day's agent, Doc Danner, said Day's wife, Sheila, urged the jockey to go to the doctor to have the nose examined early this week - but Day, who grew up riding broncos in his native Colorado, declined to do so.

"Pat told her, 'I'm a cowboy,' " said Danner.

Day wasn't the only veteran jockey to have a big day here Wednesday: Larry Melancon won with all three of his mounts. Melancon, fourth-leading rider in track history (behind Day, Don Brumfield, and Jim McKnight), figures to get his 800th Churchill victory sometime next month, having entered the meet with 781.

Winn gets his race

For years, an unwritten policy at Churchill Downs has been that no horse races are named for people. The (M. Lewis) Clark and Stephen Foster Handicaps are notable exceptions, but the lesson those race names impart is that only genuine legends need apply.

No figure in Churchill history is more revered than Matt Winn, which helps to explain how a newly created, six-furlong race for 3-year-olds was named in his honor. With the first running of the Matt Winn Stakes here Saturday, Churchill is paying tribute to a man whose leadership and promotional skills long have been credited for making the Kentucky Derby what it is today.

It was shortly after the 1902 spring meet that Winn, who would eventually initiate such Derby traditions as the garland of roses and the playing of "My Old Kentucky Home," put together a group of investors that allowed Churchill to turn a corner and become a profitable venture. As much as anything, it is the timing of that 100-year anniversary that led track officials to name its newest stakes for him, said Churchill vice president for racing Donnie Richardson.

Richardson said he wanted to move the Edgewood Stakes, a turf race for 3-year-old fillies, from its traditional date on the Saturday following the Derby.

"We'd been having a hard time getting top fillies to stick around here after Derby, so we moved the Edgewood to the Friday before Derby," said Richardson. "That opened up this date, and after looking around we realized there weren't really any sprints for 3-year-olds at this time of year. So that led us to create this one."

Castanon tries Kentucky circuit

Attempting to crash the well-established jockey colony here isn't for the meek. But that's just what veteran jockey Jesus Castanon, who has ridden with success in recent years on the East Coast, is attempting to do.

Castanon, 29, began riding here this week. His agent is former trainer Steve Rieser, who also is working for apprentice Mathieu Adam.

Castanon, a native of Mexico, began riding in the U.S. on the southern California circuit in 1989. He has won 917 races in North America, with his mounts earning over $11.7 million.

Castanon probably will move to Ellis Park when the Churchill meet ends July 7, said Rieser.

Short prices help pick six get hit

From the 92 winning tickets sold on the pick six here Wednesday, eight were bought ontrack; one was bought elsewhere in Kentucky; and 83 were purchased in other jurisdictions.

Even with a carryover pool of $348,152 and only one winning favorite among the six races, a perfect $1 ticket returned just $10,894.40. The total pool of $1,220,772 was fourth-largest in track history.

Although there was one winning longshot (Love Talkin at 18-1) during the pick six races, none of the other winners returned better than 3-1. The lowest-priced winner was Gala Bear ($4.80), the lone winning favorite. Several of the races were decimated by scratches, most notably two races that were transferred from turf to the main track because of weather conditions.

The winning numbers were 4-10-8-11-2-11. Consolation tickets with five of six winners returned $88.10.

New vantage point for workouts

The demolition project that got under way Monday is forcing trainers who want to watch morning workouts from the grandstand to change their habits.

With tunnels through the infield closed, trainers now have to drive through the back stable gate and park at what normally is valet parking at Gate 10. They can then walk into the clubhouse and watch from there.

The reconstruction project is part of Phase 1 of Churchill's $130 million, 2 1/2-year renovation.

Heard on the backside

Thursday morning, Bob Baffert, who runs Saturday Hero in the Matt Winn, asked Churchill's Donnie Richardson how many horses he was expecting to be entered that day for the race.

"Looks like seven," said Richardson.

"Can we make it five?" asked Baffert, feigning a lack of confidence in his horse.

"Well, heck," said Richardson, playing along. "Why don't I just sign the check and bring it over to you?"