11/11/2008 12:00AM

U.S. battles world for charity


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - It has been nearly two months since the international sports community zeroed in on Louisville because of the Ryder Cup golf matches at nearby Valhalla.

This Saturday, with a respectful nod toward that highly successful event, Churchill Downs will host a tongue-in-cheek replica, racing-style. "The Rider Cup," as Churchill is calling it, will pit American-born jockeys versus their foreign-born counterparts in a friendly competition that ultimately will raise $15,000 for charity.

The Rider Cup will be staged on races 4 through 8, with retired Hall of Fame jockeys Pat Day and Angel Cordero Jr. serving as captains for the respective teams. Before each of the five races, they will designate one jockey to represent their teams in attempting to score points, which will be awarded on a 3-2-1 basis for first-, second-, and third-place finishes. If neither jockey finishes that high, a half-point will be awarded to the team with the best finish.

Churchill will donate $10,000 to the charity of the winning team's choice, and $5,000 on behalf of the losing team.

"It should be a lot of fun, having Pat and Angel here, all for a good cause," said Churchill vice president John Asher, who will serve as an in-house television host between races when discussing the proceedings with Day and Cordero.

Mena will winter at Fair Grounds

Contrary to at least one recent published report, jockey Miguel Mena is staying put. Mena "seriously considered" moving to the Southern California circuit for the winter before deciding instead to maintain the same circuit he has had for the last couple of years, according to agent Steve Elzey.

"Miguel decided we're in good with just too many top outfits to pick up and leave," Elzey said. "We're headed to the Fair Grounds after Churchill ends."

Mena, a 22-year-old native of Peru, has been riding at Churchill and Keeneland in the spring and fall, Presque Isle Downs in the summer, and Fair Grounds in the winter. Into Tuesday, he had ridden 158 winners this year for mount earnings of more than $5.2 million. One of the biggest days of his career came May 10, when he rode five winners at Churchill.

Nine expected for Cardinal Handicap

Churchill racing officials are listing nine probable starters for the lone stakes here this coming weekend, the Grade 3, $100,000 Cardinal Handicap on Saturday.

Callwood Dancer, runner-up in the Grade 1 E.P. Taylor at her home track, Woodbine, in her last start, will be the starting highweight with 122 pounds in the Cardinal, a 1 1/8-mile turf race for fillies and mares.

Other probables include Brownie Points, Lady Digby, Ballymore Lady, Ciao, Meribel, Kiss With a Twist, Sousaphone, and Long Approach.

Curlin continues to gallop

Curlin remains in a sort of limbo at Churchill until the issue of his ownership is resolved.

"He's galloping every day, just kind of hanging out until I get my orders about what to do next," trainer Steve Asmussen said.

Jess Jackson owns an 80 percent interest in Curlin, the 2007 Horse of the Year and a leading candidate for repeat honors in 2008. The remaining 20 percent, owned by disbarred attorneys William Gallion and Shirley Cunningham Jr., was offered for sale last week through a sealed-bid auction that failed to attract any qualified bids. The 20 percent share is now being marketed privately.

Curlin, with exercise rider Carlos Rosas up, goes out every morning before dawn in the second set, or about 6:15 a.m. Eastern.

* Robby Albarado, the regular rider of Curlin, will be front and center after the eighth race Friday when his charitable foundation makes its first donation. An $18,000 check will be presented by The Robby Albarado Foundation to the Louisville-based Coalition for the Homeless. More information is available at robbyalbaradofoundation.org.

* Nistle's Crunch, winner of the Commonwealth Turf here Sunday under Albarado despite traffic problems, will make his next start in the Dec. 20 Woodchopper on the Fair Grounds turf or at Calder, trainer Ken McPeek said.

"Either way, I'd like to run him against straight 3-year-olds one more time," McPeek said.

* Jockey Calvin Borel took off his mounts Tuesday and Wednesday to return to St. Martin Parish in Louisiana, where his mother died Monday night following a long illness. Ella Borel was 87. Among her four other sons is veteran trainer Cecil Borel.