06/29/2010 11:00PM

Step Out Smartly rates shot


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Julien Leparoux fits the Friday night demographic. Twentysomething, single, and unavoidably hip, Leparoux was among the 25,012 who turned out to have a good time June 11 for "disco night" during the first Friday night program at the 2010 Churchill Downs spring meet.

Leparoux, the Eclipse Award winner for top jockey in 2009, did not attend the next two night programs, but when he returns this Friday, it will be the way he wants it. Leparoux will be donning silks - and not polyester or any other themed attire - throughout the last of four night programs at the meet.

Leparoux was scheduled to ride Thursday at Churchill, marking his first day in action since May 16. He was diagnosed with a compression fracture in a vertebra the week after he was thrown in a spill on May 14 at Pimlico.

"I am definitely ready to come back," said Leparoux, the 26-year-old Frenchman who has a call on Step Out Smartly in the featured 10th race, the $66,000 Roxelana.

Nine fillies and mares are entered in the Roxelana, a seven-furlong race on the main track. Step Out Smartly will break from the outside post when she attempts to snap an eight-race losing streak that extends precisely one year: the Churchill stewards declared her a dead-heat winner of a third-level allowance when the photo-finish system malfunctioned during the night program of July 2, 2009.

Step Out Smartly, trained by Rusty Arnold, is one of a handful of logical choices in a wide-open feature. Other contenders include Be Fair, a speedy Florida-bred who exits graded races and will break from the rail with Calvin Borel aboard after having been freshened by trainer D. Wayne Lukas; Vertical Vision, fourth in the Grade 3 Dogwood Stakes last out for Steve Asmussen; and My Baby Baby, a stakes-seasoned filly going turf-to-dirt for Ken McPeek.

This will be the first running of the Roxelana, which is named in honor of a standout filly trained in the early 2000s by the late William "Blackie" Huffman.

First post Friday is 6 p.m. Eastern, with the Roxelana going at 10:52 and the last race at 11:20. The "Downs After Dark" theme for this week is "Boots, Brew and Barbecue."