10/16/2006 12:00AM

Vacare on fence for Breeders' Cup


LEXINGTON, Ky. - Trainer Chris Block said Monday that no decision has been made on the Breeders' Cup status of Vacare, the 3-year-old filly who stayed unbeaten by winning the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup on Saturday at Keeneland.

"We're going to evaluate her this week and hopefully have a decision by the end of the week," said Block. "She ran awfully hard, but obviously she ran awfully big, too."

Vacare earned a lifetime-high Beyer Speed Figure of 100 with her half-length victory over late-closing Mauralakana in the QEII. Vacare, by the noted turf sire Lear Fan, was bred and is owned by the Lothenbach Stables of Robert Lothenbach, a longtime horse owner who owns a major printing business based in Eden Prairie, Minn.

Block said the ultimate decision on whether to run Vacare against older horses in the BC Filly and Mare Turf on Nov. 4 at Churchill Downs will be made by Lothenbach, who long has raced his best horses primarily on the Chicago circuit, where Block is based year-round. Vacare ran her career mark to 4 for 4 by winning the QEII, which was her first race anywhere other than Arlington Park.

For Block, who until Saturday had never won a Grade 1 race in 17 years as a trainer, the 48 hours following the QEII triumph were filled with "a lot of phone calls and a lot of congratulations. It's been unbelievable, just great."

Flower Alley will try to make Classic

Flower Alley, the runner-up to Saint Liam in the 2005 Breeders' Cup Classic, apparently is headed to the 2006 Classic, assuming he can make the field, said Michael McCarthy, the Churchill Downs-based assistant to trainer Todd Pletcher. Sunday, Flower Alley had his first workout at Churchill since having arrived from New York when he breezed five furlongs in 1:01.80.

"It's my understanding that we are pointing him to the Classic," said McCarthy.

With only a Grade 3 victory from three starts this year, Flower Alley does not have sufficient Breeders' Cup points to make the Classic field if the $5 million race is oversubscribed and therefore would have to be invited by the Breeders' Cup selection committee. Flower Alley, one of the top 3-year-olds of last year, was highly disappointing in his last two races, finishing seventh in both the Whitney and Woodward.

In another bit of Breeders' Cup news, Pletcher said last week that Go Deputy has definitely been ruled out of consideration for the BC Turf, for which the stable has one of the favorites in English Channel. Go Deputy will run instead in the $2 million Canadian International at Woodbine on Sunday.

Gorella best suited to BC Mile

Gorella earned a 112 Beyer in her narrow victory Saturday over Karen's Caper in the First Lady at Keeneland and is very likely to make a return engagement in the BC Mile, in which she finished a fast-closing third last year behind Artie Schiller and Leroidesanimaux.

The obvious disadvantage of running in the Mile is having to face male rivals - as opposed to staying with females by running in the BC Filly and Mare Turf at 1 3/8 miles - but the shorter distance of the Mile is the more dominant variable, said trainer Patrick Biancone.

Owner launches memorial fund

Marty Schwartz, the owner of Gorella, made a magnanimous gesture in the afterglow of victory Saturday. Schwartz announced while being interviewed on Keeneland's in-house television network that he was starting a memorial fund named in honor of Kathleen Torok, the longtime Keeneland employee who died last week, with 10 percent of his share of the First Lady purse, which amounts to $24,800.

Torok, 45, was killed in an automobile accident while on her way to work last Thursday morning at Keeneland, where she was in charge of providing hospitality and other logistical arrangements for visiting owners and trainers.

Schwartz later said that he had frequent business dealings with Torok and called her "an extraordinary woman."

Baroness Thatcher may try BC

Trainer Dale Romans said he is seriously considering Baroness Thatcher for the BC Juvenile Fillies. Baroness Thatcher, a Johannesburg filly owned by Zayat Stables LLC, was a five-length winner of a seven-furlong maiden race at Keeneland on Oct. 7, earning an 83 Beyer.

"She's really turned the corner for us, and Churchill is home, so we're going to think about it," said Romans.

Hunch play for college hoops fans

By coincidence, the victory by Midnight Lute last Friday in the Grade 3 Perryville at Keeneland came just hours before the University of Arizona hosted its annual Midnight Madness celebration to open practice for the upcoming 2006-07 basketball season.

Midnight Lute, trained by Arizona graduate Bob Baffert, was named for the school's legendary coach, Lute Olson, who reportedly got the nickname because of his last-minute ability to snag recruits who appeared to be heading for other schools. The Perryville was Midnight Lute's stakes debut.

* Despite a strict smoking ban that will apply to bars and restaurants throughout Louisville beginning next July, Churchill Downs was granted a special exemption from the ban by the Louisville Metro Council last week.

* Like every track in Kentucky, Churchill has announced that it will begin employing an entry schedule that allows for at least 72 hours of lead time before race days. The fall meet begins Oct. 29.