12/30/2011 12:48PM

Turfway: Lebron, Maker should continue to dominate when new meet begins


Not that anyone really notices, but a new meet starts Sunday at Turfway Park in Florence, Ky. For bookkeeping and other legal reasons, the holiday meet ends when one year ends, and the winter-spring meet begins when the next year begins.

Otherwise, what happened in December figures to continue unabated for the next three months – and that is, Victor Lebron dominating the jockey standings and Mike Maker leading all trainers despite having what is basically his third string of horses based at Turfway.

Lebron was easily the leading rider at the holiday meet, which began Dec. 1, while Maker held a 9-7 lead over Bill Connelly going into the final two programs (Friday and Saturday). For Lebron, the Turfway title was his third, following the 2008 and 2009 winter-spring titles, while Maker, whose main winter bases are at Gulfstream and Fair Grounds, led Turfway for the ninth time.

Interestingly, no jockey has won a Turfway riding title at back-to-back meets since Julien Leparoux did it at the 2006 winter-spring and fall meets.

Lacking so much as an allowance race – two in the condition book didn’t fill – the nominal feature of a nine-race Sunday card is a starter-allowance event. First post is 1:10 p.m. Eastern.

Chicago-based Roman will ride at Turfway

With Hawthorne going dark for six weeks after its Saturday finale, jockeys and trainers from Chicago figure to be part of the Turfway scene for a while, or at least until Hawthorne resumes live action Feb. 17. One of the notable arrivals is Constantino Roman, whose book will now be handled by John Herbstreit.

Roman, second only to Florent Geroux at the fall meet that ended Saturday at Hawthorne, has won with 136 of 1,098 mounts since he began riding competitively late last year. The 21-year-old native of Guerrero, Mexico, will continue to ride with a five-pound apprentice allowance until early February.

Part-time trainer scores first win

Anthony Dougherty saddled the first winner of his training career when City of Trix won the eighth race Wednesday. Dougherty, 49, works primarily as an admissions technician at the Hagyard Equine Medical Institute in Lexington after having been employed in a wide variety of positions in racing and elsewhere.

Dougherty has enjoyed a more notable victory: Turfway reports that he underwent successful surgery in February after being diagnosed with a brain tumor the previous month.

Fans may leave early to watch Bengals

The Turfway crowd may thin Sunday as the card wears on, and once again it’s because of the National Football League.

Even Turfway president Bob Elliston said he will be at nearby Paul Brown Stadium to watch the hometown Cincinnati Bengals try to make the NFL playoffs when facing division rival Baltimore in their season finale at 4 p.m.

“I think I’m going to paint my face,” said a laughing Elliston.

Buck Wheat memorial draws a crowd

A standing-room only crowd of more than 500 people turned out Wednesday in the Triple Crown room at Churchill Downs for a memorial service honoring Julian “Buck” Wheat, who died Dec. 21 at age 78. Wheat had worked in various capacities at Churchill since 1949 and was memorialized with numerous touching tributes. Churchill vice president John Asher, the featured speaker, quoted Dr. Seuss when remembering Wheat in saying, “Don’t cry because it’s over; smile because it happened.”

◗ Sunday and the new meet signal the start of reduced takeout on pick four wagers at Turfway, with the 50-cent minimum wager dropping from 22 percent to just 14 percent. Two pick fours, and occasionally three, are available on Turfway cards. Several weeks ago, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission approved the decreases, which Turfway hopes will stimulate handle.

◗ The last group of horses remaining at Churchill and the Trackside training center were scheduled to clear out Saturday. The stable areas at both facilities will close for regularly scheduled maintenance and cleaning before reopening in early March.