10/03/2007 12:00AM

Spinster will serve as Plan B for Teammate

EmailLEXINGTON, Ky. - Allen Jerkens couldn't remember the last time he sent a horse from New York to race at Keeneland. His best guess was Sensitive Prince, who won a minor Kentucky Derby prep race in 1978 before setting the pace for Affirmed and Alydar in the Derby, but more recently than that, Jerkens saddled Silent Account, winner of the 1985 Alcibiades.

Indeed, Jerkens has done so much in his Hall of Fame career that he can't remember winning a race like the Alcibiades. After Sunday, Jerkens may have a hard time forgetting - at least for a while - the $500,000 Spinster Stakes, especially if Teammate, whom he will be sending in from New York, wins the signature race of the meet.

Jerkens, who rarely ships horses out of New York, said he did not have quite enough time to run Teammate in the Beldame last Sunday at his home base, Belmont Park, and that owner Joseph Allen wanted to run the filly at Keeneland as an alternative. Teammate came out of a third-place finish in her most recent start, the Sept. 8 Ruffian, with an ankle that "flared up a little bit," said Jerkens.

Teammate, with Cornelio Velasquez to ride, will be part of a terrific field in the 1 1/8-mile Spinster, which shapes up as a major prep for the Oct. 27 Breeders' Cup Distaff at Monmouth Park. At least 10 fillies and mares were expected when entries were drawn Thursday, with Lady Joanne, Asi Siempre, Panty Raid, High Heels, and Sugar Shake among the other prospects.

Jerkens said early Wednesday that shipping plans were incomplete, but he expected Teammate, a two-time Grade 2 winner with earnings of nearly $570,000, to be ready to run once she arrives.

"I don't have any idea how she'll do on Polytrack, but I've always thought she'd like the grass," he said.

Asmussen prefers Polytrack for training

Curlin has been an East Coast horse in recent months, training at Saratoga and racing at Monmouth before winning the Jockey Club Gold Cup last Sunday at Belmont.

So it seems to say something for the Polytrack surface at Keeneland that trainer Steve Asmussen went out of his way to send Curlin here to train in preparation for the $5omillion BC Classic. Curlin arrived here Monday and is with the rest of the big Asmussen string being overseen in Barn 36 by assistant Scott Blasi.

Curlin is one of three Asmussen horses training at Keeneland for the Breeders' Cup, along with Student Council (Classic) and Kodiak Kowboy (Juvenile).

"We've had a lot of success going from the Polytrack to the dirt, and with it being fall, you don't want weather to be a variable," said Blasi. "We've got three works to get in him before we go to Monmouth on the 23rd."

Curlin was scheduled to resume training Thursday morning.

TVG covering meet

Few tracks are provided with the no-stone-uncovered brand of television coverage that TVG gives to Keeneland. The California-based racing network has a big production crew on hand for opening weekend, and much of its specialty programming is focusing on Keeneland racing.

On-air talent Todd Schrupp, Gary Stevens, Frank Lyons, and Jill Byrne will be on site for much of the meet, including all of the opening weekend, and shows such as The Works and 58 Flat will air from the track.

Last spring, TVG handle increased by nearly 40 percent over the 2006 spring meet, helping boost the track's all-sources handle by more than 10 percent. Keeneland president Nick Nicholson said he is hoping that TVG once again will be a big plus for track business.

Influx of top Chicago riders

During spring meets, the Keeneland jockeys' room tends to be a home-away-from-home for riders who otherwise ride mostly in New York, with top jockeys such as John Velazquez, Garrett Gomez, and Edgar Prado riding here regularly.

But with the Belmont Park fall meet going on, they aren't here nearly as much - and that vacuum seems to have been filled by Chicago jockeys this year. Five of the top riders at the recently ended Arlington Park meet are here: Rene Douglas, E.T. Baird, Jesse Campbell, James Graham, and Larry Sterling Jr.

Douglas and Graham are familiar to Keeneland fans, but the others will ride regularly here for the first time.

"We had such a good Arlington meet that we thought we'd come down here and give it a try," said Baird's agent, Penny Ffitch-Heyes.

Kelly's Landing works bullet for BC Sprint

While Eddie Kenneally was hoping to lock up the first training title of his career this week at Turfway Park, the Irishman also was looking ahead to the Keeneland meet and the Breeders' Cup.

Although he maintains a string at Churchill, Kenneally has been spending more time lately at Keeneland, where on Wednesday he worked Kelly's Landing over the Polytrack. Kelly's Landing breezed four furlongs in 47.00 seconds, the best of 27 works at the distance.

Kelly's Landing is trying to make the BC Sprint after being laid up since winning the $2omillion Golden Shaheen in Dubai March 31.

"I wanted to get a prep race in him, but he's had a couple of minor setbacks that kept us from doing that," said Kenneally. "But he's really doing great right now."

Into the final two nights, Kenneally was making a two-win lead hold up at the 22-day Turfway fall meet.

French jockey resumes career

A brand new face on the scene is Florent Geroux, a former leading apprentice in his native France. Geroux, 21, worked as an exercise rider for trainer Patrick Biancone at the Saratoga meet and resumed his career as a jockey late in the Turfway meet.

Steve Bass, who works for Julien Leparoux, also is the agent for Geroux, who plans to ride through the Churchill meet next month before quite possibly returning to Turfway for the winter.

"He'll fill some spots for Patrick when Julien's not available, and hopefully we'll be picking up other business along the way," said Bass.

Harty stable should be strong

With 18 horses, most of them having shipped to Keeneland from Saratoga, Eoin Harty will be active with the Darley runners at the meet. With Harty due from California later in the week, the stable has been overseen in recent days by assistant Brian Ange.

"We think we're going to have a good, solid meet," said Ange.

Harty, the longtime former assistant to Bob Baffert, went out on his own in 2000. His best runners this year include Burmilla, Marietta, and Past the Point.

- additional reporting by David Grening