02/13/2009 12:00AM

WEBN win raises hopes for Parade Clown


Whenever a 3-year-old looks good winning a race at this time of year, and the connections aren't as high-profile or deep-pocketed as, say, Sheikh Mohammed bid Rashid al Maktoum, you can bet your last dollar that the phone is going to ring soon.

So when a colt with untapped potential named Parade Clown won the WEBN Stakes last Saturday at Turfway Park in Florence, Ky., it didn't take long for the calls to come in from folks with Kentucky Derby fever.

"Yes, we did have a couple people ask to buy him," said K.K. Ball, who trains Parade Clown for her in-laws, Don and Mira Ball of Donamire Farm. "But Mr. Ball would much rather have a nice horse than sell it."

The Balls have been fabulously successful for decades in the real estate business in the Lexington, Ky., area, to the extent that you might say they are in no immediate danger of needing a federal bailout. Mike Ball, their son who trained for the stable until the mid-1980s when turning his attention to other business, is the husband of K.K. Ball, a dedicated horsewoman who doesn't much care whether Parade Clown runs in her name or for one of the stable's other public trainers.

"It's just by happenstance that I've got him," said K.K. Ball, who currently has six horses based at Keeneland. "I like getting them ready in the morning and being around them and doing whatever needs to be done, but I have absolutely no problem shipping these horses around to other trainers."

After Mike Ball stopped training, the family turned to Paul McGee as their trainer, and in more recent years, while K.K. Ball has maintained a string at Keeneland, they have employed David Fawkes and Greg Foley.

Since the Balls primarily race homebreds, it comes as no surprise that Parade Clown, by Distorted Humor out of Twilight Parade, is related to other horses that have won stakes under the farm's familiar white and black silks. Twilight Parade is a half-sister to Twilight Road, a multiple graded stakes winner of nearly $800,000, and to Mr Maccool, winner of the Jersey Derby last summer at Monmouth Park.

Considering his sire is Distorted Humor, whose progeny includes 2003 Kentucky Derby winner Funny Cide, Parade Clown is generating quite a bit of excitement at Donamire, which is located just a few miles outside the Keeneland back gate on Old Frankfort Pike. In the one-mile WEBN, the gray colt showed newfound speed when tracking the pace and drawing off to a 2 3/4-length score, earning a 90 Beyer Speed Figure. The race was the fifth of his career.

"Mike says we're not talking the 'D' word," K.K. Ball said. "But yes, the horse is still learning. Every race is different for him. He changed his style the other day and really looked good. He's green but talented, which I guess is why people have asked about him."

Ball said the next race for Parade Clown, the $100,000 Battaglia Memorial on Feb. 28 at Turfway, should determine what lies farther down the road.

Music City drawing interest

As with Parade Clown, potential suitors have contacted the connections of Music City, the WEBN front-runner and second-place finisher, although no sale is imminent.

"Maybe we're not bright enough to sell," joked Bill Helmbrecht, who trains the colt for his brother Michael. "We're just kind of playing it by ear."

Unlike with Parade Clown, the 1 1/16-mile Battaglia is not in the cards for Music City, a speedy City Zip colt. Helmbrecht said the colt would run next in the six-furlong Hansel Stakes on the March 21 Lane's End Stakes undercard at Turfway.

"I don't know if he just can't get a distance or what," said Helmbrecht, "and maybe it's not a good excuse, but both times he's run long he just looks at the starting gate [in mid-stretch]. He's probably best going short anyway, so that's what we'll point for."

Keeneland gets No. 1 rating

Keeneland has been rated No. 1 among 65 North American racetracks by the Horseplayers Association of America, a grassroots group that includes more than 500 horseplayers who bet some $30 million annually, according to a Keeneland news release.

A mathematical system created by the association incorporates numerous variables in calculating a track's rating, including takeout rates, field size, simulcast-signal distribution and quality, website databases, and low base-cost wager availability.

Keeneland president Nick Nicholson said being recognized by horseplayers is "a distinct honor."