05/05/2010 11:00PM

Versailles Road taking next step


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Churchill Downs has tied a "Dress to Impress" theme to its Friday twilight cards, but some serious horseplayers would wear little more than rags if it insured a big day at the windows.

Indeed, fashion is a relative term, and one that often applies to the racing game. Versailles Road, a 4-year-old gelding named for the road on which Keeneland is located, matched beautifully with his locale, winning off in impressive fashion in a maiden race last month in Lexington. With his next start coming in the Friday feature at Churchill, it remains to be seen if he can retain his style when he jumps into the allowance ranks.

Seven other 3-year-olds and upward are set to oppose Versailles Road in the ninth of 10 races, the only allowance on the Friday card. Trained by Ian Wilkes, Versailles Road will have Julien Leparoux aboard when he breaks from post 2 in a seven-furlong race that carries a first-level condition and $50,000 purse. In two tries before his breakthrough nine-length maiden score on April 17 at Keeneland, the gelding mostly struggled, finishing sixth in his career debut last spring, then fourth in his March return at Gulfstream Park.

Belo Sorte, assigned the far outside post, could prove the most serious challenger despite exiting a series of conditioned-claiming races. Belo Sorte earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 90 capturing his Gulfstream farewell four Fridays ago, and with 3 victories from 6 starts, he certainly knows how to win. Robby Albarado rides for trainer Dale Romans.

Other possibilities include Fayoum, a two-back maiden winner at Oaklawn Park for Steve Asmussen, and Kabob, a new arrival from the Southern California circuit.

This is the first of five straight Fridays with a twilight first post of 2:45 p.m. Eastern. Starting June 11, the remaining four Fridays at the 42-day spring meet will start at 6 p.m., with the newly installed permanent lighting system being used during the latter portions of those cards.

Depending on what happened here Thursday with a seven-figure pick six jackpot, clearly the Friday feature could carry far greater import if the bet carried over from the previous day.

* Churchill is taking a weekend off on the stakes schedule. The next stakes here is the $100,000 Matt Winn on May 15.