11/07/2005 12:00AM

'Stars of Tomorrow' promo here to stay


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Some new concepts in racing work, and some don't. This one worked - and now Churchill Downs fans can count on the "Stars of Tomorrow" program being a highlight of future fall meets.

Eleven races, all for 2-year-olds, comprised Stars of Tomorrow, which drew huge fields, an ontrack crowd of 14,864, and major increases in ontrack and all-sources handle.

"The day really played to our strengths," said John Asher, vice president of racing communications at Churchill. "Obviously, we have a lot of 2-year-olds ready to run at the fall meet. The horsemen and the fans all sure liked the idea. It seemed like everybody I saw Saturday had a smile on their face."

Asher said Churchill officials are crediting Bobby Umphrey, the director of racing at Churchill's sister track, Calder, with the Stars of Tomorrow concept. "Bobby's the one that came up with the idea a couple of years ago, and we just ran with it," said Asher.

A total of 126 horses competed on the card, an average of more than 11 per race. The big fields helped to draw an all-sources handle of $12,585,390, which was up a whopping 27 percent over the corresponding Saturday in 2004.

Ontrack handle of $1,370,997 (not including imported simulcasts) was up 23 percent, and attendance was up 47 percent. Admittedly, there were mitigating factors that helped to maximize the ontrack figures Saturday: the weather was ideal, the highly popular Chili Cookoff promotion was held (switched from a different date last year), and this is the first fall meet since Churchill's $121 million renovation was completed.

Call for extra starting-gate personnel

Perhaps the only people who weren't crazy about Stars of Tomorrow were the Churchill starting-gate crew, which would be understandable. Loading inexperienced 2-year-olds can be dicey, and in fact there were several time-consuming incidents Saturday involving horses refusing to load.

Trainer Tom Proctor, who won the seventh race with Calamus, an Elusive Quality first-time starter, believes Churchill should hire extra gate personnel when Stars of Tomorrow is held next fall.

"You get to the last horse being loaded, and there aren't enough guys to help out," said Proctor. "You get all those 2-year-olds bouncing around in there, you just need more hands."

Maytown back after narrow miss

Three allowance races are on the Wednesday card at Churchill, with the ninth race, a $53,700 sprint, serving as the feature. Rafael Bejarano, who already has established a clear lead atop the jockey standings after six of the 21 racing days, has the mount on Maytown, one of the main contenders in a field of 11 entered under second-level allowance conditions.

Maytown, a 4-year-old Menifee gelding trained by Al Stall Jr., narrowly missed under similar conditions in his last start on Aug. 11 at Saratoga. He will break from the inside post in the six-furlong race.

The weekly handicapping contest will be held Wednesday. The finals are set for Nov. 23.

Pat Day roast tix available

Tickets are still available for the Pat Day roast Saturday night in the Triple Crown Room at Churchill. Tickets are $200. For more information, call (502) 636-4400.

Day, easily the all-time leading rider at Churchill, also will be honored throughout the Saturday program. A poster giveaway, autograph session, and winner's circle ceremony are among the scheduled activities.

* Trainer Vickie Foley said blood-test results on She Says It Best "are okay," and the filly is tentatively being pointed to the Nov. 26 Golden Rod Stakes.

"We'll see how she does the next couple of weeks," said Foley.

She Says It Best finished ninth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies after winning the Grade 2 Alcibiades Stakes.

* With the Ellis Park tornado being the third weather disaster to strike a Churchill Downs Inc. track within the last 10 weeks, CDI spokeswoman Julie Koening-Loignon said, when asked about insurance: "By now, we're up on our policies - very much so."