09/18/2002 11:00PM

Stretch run tricks the eye - and that's not all


The horses make their charge through the Kentucky Downs stretch, and judging by the camera angle, they are poised to cross the finish line.

Then, the in-house television director orders a switch from the eighth-pole camera to the finish-line camera, and, suddenly, television viewers realize that the horses still have another furlong to run.

Indeed, watching simulcast races from Kentucky Downs, "can be very deceptive for fans who aren't used to the unusual layout of this course," said Ryan Driscoll, general manager of the Franklin, Ky., track.

Besides unconventional camera angles, other things about Kentucky Downs rarely come into play at other North American racetracks.

The undulating nature of the grass course is more comparable to what is commonly found in Europe, Australia, or even some steeplechase courses in the U.S. With a circumference of 1 5/16 miles and an asymmetrical shape, Kentucky Downs is a course with inclines and declines that just aren't found at your everyday track.

Just past the seven-furlong pole, on what passes for the beginning of the backstretch, there is a major incline over which jockeys and horses can see nothing ahead of them but blue sky.

Just past the six-furlong marker is a downhill slope that enhances the gate speed that many horses display at the start of six-furlong races.

The far turn begins with about five furlongs remaining in a race, and although it appears to be a sharp turn, it actually includes a brief straightaway.

"It's one of those big, Euro-style banked turns with a big, sloping break on it," said Driscoll.

Then there is the stretch run, which begins with more than three furlongs remaining. Horses often make sustained rallies at Kentucky Downs, only to flatten out late. The final furlong is run over a subtle yet noticeable uphill climb that tends to take its toll on horses lacking the required stamina.

Yet for a horseplayer watching on television, easily the most noticeable quirk about Kentucky Downs is how the stretch run plays tricks on the eye.

"You can have a big lead at the eighth pole and think you're home free, but then the camera switches and you realize they've still got a long way to go," said Driscoll.

"Of course, there's a flip side to that. If you didn't bet on the leader, then you realize how glad you are to still be alive [in the race]."

Cetewayo makes the trip here

The route from North East, Md., to Franklin, Ky., is not exactly a well-traveled one. Yet it is the one that trainer Michael Dickinson has chosen for Cetewayo, the millionaire 8-year-old who will be the favorite in the $300,000 Kentucky Cup Turf.

"Where else is there to run?" asked Dickinson. "There just aren't that many Grade 3 races at 1 1/2 miles, especially for $300,000. I could run against With Anticipation in a Grade 1 again, but I'd rather not."

In his last start, Cetewayo finished seventh, beaten five lengths by With Anticipation, in the Aug. 10 Sword Dancer at Saratoga.

"He tried to come through on the hedge but got bumped around and really didn't have much of a chance," said Dickinson. "But there were a lot of runners in that race, so I don't know how much better his finishing position might have been."

Cetewayo arrived at Kentucky Downs Sept. 14, a day after Dickinson "motored down" from Lexington, Ky., to walk the course with the horse's owner, Dr. John Chandler. Dickinson will not be back Saturday at Kentucky Downs; he will hand the saddling chores to groom Salvadore "Chubba" Avila.

Dickinson said that even if Cetewayo runs well Saturday, he will not run him back in the Oct. 26 Breeders' Cup Turf.

The last three winners of the Kentucky Cup Turf were well beaten as longshots in the B.C. Turf. They were Fahris, 10th in 1999; Down the Aisle, 12th in 2000; and Chorwon, sixth in 2001.

Dickinson said he found the Kentucky Downs surface "just okay." Veteran jockey Larry Melancon said earlier this week that he cannot recall the course being in better shape.

Melancon, who has had mounts in the Kentucky Cup turf series every year since the 1998 inaugural, said that while the course has been subject to criticism in some previous seasons, "I don't think I've ever seen it this good. I rode it last weekend and came back thinking they've done a real nice job this year."

Jockey Prather nearing comeback

Agent Ron Mullis said apprentice rider Kris Prather is nearing a comeback after being sidelined since late June with a pelvis injury suffered when she was kicked by her mount following a race at Churchill Downs.

Prather began getting on horses this week and "hopefully will be riding the last few days of the Turfway meet," said Mullis. "We hope to be in full swing for Keeneland," which begins Oct. 4.

Prather still has several months left on her apprenticeship despite having ridden her first race more than two years ago. The pelvis injury was the latest of several interruptions to her career.

Flatter's leg surgery is successful

Flatter, a highly promising 3-year-old colt trained by Steve Penrod, underwent successful surgery Wednesday to repair a fractured right front cannon bone after suffering the injury early that morning at Churchill Downs.

Flatter had been extremely impressive in winning his last three starts - a maiden race at Churchill, an allowance at Arlington, and an allowance at Turfway.

He was working toward the Oct. 5 Indiana Derby when Penrod sent him out for an easy breeze before daybreak Wednesday.

"He'll be out at least six months," said Penrod. "He had a couple of screws inserted in the bone at Rood and Riddle, and they're really pleased with how the surgery went."

Leelanau retired

Leelanau, who for a short time in 2001 held the Churchill track record for 5 1/2 furlongs before it was broken by Cashier's Dream, has been retired after just three career starts, said trainer Steve Morguelan.

Leelanau, a Carson City colt owned by David Clark and Walmac International, probably will stand at stud next year in Florida, said Morguelan.