09/23/2009 11:00PM

Turfway offers ideal spot to prep for BC


FLORENCE, Ky. - It could be worse.

Beset by years of sagging business, deflated purses, and an uncertain long-term future, Turfway Park on Saturday will run the Kentucky Cup for the 16th time with a couple of saving graces on hand: the synthetic racetrack is similar to that at Santa Anita, site of the Nov. 6-7 Breeders' Cup, and the six-week span between events is ideal for some horsemen.

In fact, the surface and timing were key factors in WinStar Farm sending Hold Me Back, easily the marquee name in the Kentucky Cup this year, to Turfway.

"It was a good fit and made a lot of sense for us," said WinStar racing manager Elliott Walden.

Citing the increasing difficulties of a highly competitive gambling and entertainment market, Turfway has been a leading proponent for legislation to enable state racetracks to offer alternative gaming. Track president Bob Elliston has even suggested Turfway might have to close after 2010, lacking a satisfactory solution.

In the meantime, the Kentucky Cup will cling to whatever small advantages it can get. The physical proximity to Churchill Downs, the 2010 Breeders' Cup host, might be the top viability angle for next year, but otherwise, long-term answers clearly are needed in restoring the series to a more prestigious, richly funded standing required to attract top-class horses.

Horsemen lobby for slots

Two top officials with the Kentucky division of the Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, president Rick Hiles and executive director Marty Maline, met for two hours Tuesday in Frankfort, Ky., with David Williams, president of the Kentucky state senate, to discuss the slots issue.

"I thought the meeting went well," said Maline. "We were allowed to express our views and explain why slots are absolutely crucial to horsemen in this state. Obviously we're all still agreeing to disagree at this point, but there is an ongoing dialogue."

Williams has been steadfastly opposed to slots at racetracks and is widely viewed as the primary obstruction to them.

Borel reunites with Dubious Miss

Dubious Miss, the curiously named 5-year-old gelding, will be trying to remain perfect with Calvin Borel as one of the main challengers to Hold Me Back in the KC Classic.

With other jockeys aboard, Dubious Miss is 1 for 8. But with Borel, he is 5 for 5, a statistic that trainer Paul McGee calls "amazing." The Classic marks the first time Dubious Miss has run in a stakes race with Borel up.

Dubious Miss is owned by David Holloway, the retired Louisville businessman who teamed with McGee and Borel in the mid- to late-1990s with the accomplished sprinter Bet on Sunshine, a $1.4 million earner who won 14 stakes. Although the name Dubious Miss would seem to imply that the horse is female, Holloway said it comes from a failed, half-hearted attempt at something, as in "a swing and a miss."

Dozen turf races for closing day

Kentucky Downs, the all-turf track in south-central Kentucky, will end its four-day meet Monday with 12 races, three more than originally planned. The track is making up the three races that were canceled last Monday because of potentially unsafe conditions following heavy rain.

The Monday card will begin at 1:30 p.m. Central, meaning "we'll really have to move the races along" to squeeze in all 12 before darkness sets in, said racing secretary Rick Leigh.

Kentucky Downs will run six races Saturday as part of the 16-race melded marathon with Turfway. In previous years, the $50,000 Pleasant Temper Stakes had complemented the Kentucky Cup series on this date, but Kentucky Downs scrapped the race for this year.

Churchill won't hire general manager

Contrary to what was reported last weekend, Churchill Downs does not have imminent plans to hire a general manager for its flagship racetrack, which begins its fall meet Nov. 1. Instead, racetrack president Kevin Flanery "will be assuming many of the duties previously attended to" by the former general manager, said track spokesman John Asher.

Flanery was promoted to track president from within the company in mid-July during a personnel reshuffling that included Jim Gates, the former general manager, being reassigned into the newly formed entertainment division of Churchill Downs Inc. Asher said other traditional general-managing duties also "are being assumed by operations and other departments."

* Turfway officials are expecting an ontrack crowd of maybe 5,000 to 6,000 for Kentucky Cup Day, which traditionally attracts the second-largest crowd (behind Lane's End Day every March) for a live racing program. One negative factor: the Kentucky Cup is going up against a 6 p.m. Eastern college football game being played in Lexington between Kentucky and No. 1-ranked Florida.

* Saturday at Turfway coincides with another College Scholarship raffle, sponsored by the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association and the host track. Ten $1,000 scholarships will be raffled throughout the afternoon to registered students, who must be present to win. The first 500 to register will receive a free T-shirt.

* Borel, whose feats this year with Rachel Alexandra and Mine That Bird have been well-documented, will be trying for his second win in the KC Classic. His first came 10 years ago, on Sept. 25, 1999, when Da Devil rocked the Turfway tote board by stunning the eventual winner of the Breeders' Cup Classic, Cat Thief, at a $132.80 mutuel.

* The Kentucky Racetrack Chaplaincy is seeking more players and teams for a golf scramble to be held Oct. 6 at noon Eastern at the Traditions Golf Club in Hebron, Ky. More information is available at (502) 439-0009.