Morning Line Goes to the Breeders' Cup

The Bronze Age
12:20 p.m.

A bronze statue of Pat Day is unveiled in the garden near the paddock at Churchill Downs. John Asher cracks a joke that it will allow Day to live out his dream of being five feet tall since the statue is just slightly larger than life.

The work was created by Raymond Graf, a Louisville artist that had never been to Churchill Downs before he was commissioned to do the work.

"I'd never been to a race," he says. "I should have been's just something that hasn't happened."

However, Graf did know about Churchill Downs' all-time leading rider.

"I knew his story," Graf says. "The place where I used to work, one of my good friends is a big horse racing fan, so he used to take my bets out to the track for the Derby."

Even if you don't go to the track, if you live in Louisville, you bet on the Derby.

Day on his podium? "He weighs 220 pounds," Graf says. "It's hollow. It's a little bit more than twice what Pat really weighs."

Graf goes through the process. "There was a clay model of this, and then I had to make a wax copy for the casting. And then we did 15 of the small ones."

Fifteen hand-held models were made: one for Day and 14 to be sold to raise money for the Racetrack Chaplaincy of America. -E.H.

The Real Dirt
9:45 a.m.

Track super Raymond "Butch" Lehr Jr. has been around Churchill Downs for 39 years. This is his sixth Breeders' Cup. He's hard to ruffle.

We ask, he gives us an annual report: "We had a little bit of damage with some storms on the outside, but it didn't affect the main part of the track."

Any pressure with the World Championships in town?

"I've been here 39's not like we just started doing this. We've got a few years under our belt. We just want to have a fair racetrack for everybody. The weather is always a challenge for what we do, we don't have roof over it. But right now, the weather looks real good."

Lehr has "30 guys" with his year-round crew. Six on the turf and 24 in the barn area and main track. He's also got a great, sunny, dry fall day to work with. Let's hope he does Saturday. -E.H.

Equal Opportunist
9:20 a.m.

Breeders' Cup horses whiz by the clocker's stand on the backside like cars at the Indy 500. Most have their "Breeders' Cup" saddle towels with their name on them -- it's a purple haze of who's who in racing.

There goes Sprint contenders Bordonaro and Siren Lure cruises by; Distaff runner Hollywood Story rumbles by, to name a few.

I don't see how the clockers keep up. About every 15 seconds a trainer arrives and shouts out a name and "he/she is going five eighths." From there it's up to them.

Tracy Farmer's Sun King, with Rafael Bejarano up, moves five eighths and gallops out six furlongs in 1:14, according to trainer Nick Zito. Sun King is winless in his last four starts -- all grade I races -- but has hit the board in each. He's pre-entered for the $5-million Classic.

Back at the barn, Zito sizes up Classic favorite Bernardini.

"You have to put him (Bernardini) in the Secretariat, Seattle Slew class right now," Zito says. "He's a great, great horse. I can't say enough good things about Bernardini. I've had the pleasure of running second to him three times.

"Doc Cheney ran second to him in the Withers; of course, Wanderin Boy in the Gold Cup; and then I finished third to him, I'm sorry, in the Jim Dandy with Hemingway's Key. Three different owners, too. I'm an equal opportunist. They all got buried!" -E.H.

First Time By
8:30 a.m.

Trainer Neil Howard says the best Breeders' Cup race he ever saw was Personal Ensign winning the Distaff in 1988.

That was the famous race where the Phipps' family mare ran down and caught Winning Colors in the final jump in the mud to retire undefeated. He's not alone -- it's most everybody's favorite.

Churchill Downs' John Asher agrees.

"It was the only time I've seen guys in the press box cry," he said of Personal Ensign's feat. "That and Alysheba winning the Classic in the dark -- that was the best day of racing, ever."

This year marks the sixth time the Breeders' Cup will be held under the Twin Spires of Churchill Downs. As good as others may have been, the first time - 1988 - is still the measuring stick. -E.H.

An Eight Rounder
7:30 a.m.

Jockey Rene Douglas exits the barn of trainer Nick Zito on his way to his next workout. He's excited about his mount aboard Dreaming of Anna in the Juvenile Fillies for trainer Wayne Catalano.

"We've got high hopes for her," he says. "I've got a lot of confidence."

Douglas, like most everyone else in racing, gets jazzed this time of year when the Breeders' Cup comes around.

"The fans make the races more exciting," he says. "When I'm riding, I like to see the fans; it gets me pumped up.

"It's like the Kentucky Derby. You wait all year for this--It's like any championship. The fans...the crowd...makes it like a championship fight."

Next Saturday's eight Breeders' Cup races will go the distance. It'll be an eight-rounder. -E.H.

Dog Day Morning
6:40 a.m.

Dawn inches up at the Downs. Activity increases on the backstretch. With dry conditions and the Breeders' Cup six days away, it figures to be a busy morning.

Turf contender Silverfoot whooshes by the three-quarter pole. Fellow Turf pre-entry Rush Bay jogs by the wrong way headed toward the chute.

"Who's working today?" is asked to no one in particular.

"Everybody...and their dog," a young woman says. "And they're all going at 8:30."

It figures to be a busy morning. -E.H.

Fancy Colors
Saturday, Oct. 28
5:30 p.m.

Driving to Louisville from the Lexington area. While zipping along US 60 north of Versailles, with Ashford Stud to the left...then Gainsborough on the right. Pin Oak Stud on the left...the fall colors never quit.

A crystal blue sky. The autumn's low-slung sun casts late October shadows as the miles go flying by. A stiff west wind does its best to strip the trees clean of their summer leaves.

Kentucky's fall foliage is fantastic. The palate is rich in yellows, tans, taupe, and olive. Maples standout with brilliant red, orange... a redorange so to speak. Grass, with yet another inch of rain to work from the day before, is still June green.

It is 54 degrees. In past years, the Breeders' Cup has been run on this day, in the last precious hours of daylight savings time. The Classic would go off about now.

A repeat of this day next Saturday would be ideal. -E.H.

The Hitchin' Post
Friday, Oct. 27

The "unofficial" local kickoff to Breeders' Cup week was the wedding extravaganza of local trainer Niall O'Callaghan and Kathleen Conrad. A 70-minute mass at St. Elizabeth of Hungary church was followed by a lavish reception at Audubon Country Club.

We've been told the wedding was filled with prayer and music but was not without incident...courtesy of the groom. While Niall and Kathleen were receiving words of wisdom from the priest, a cell phone went off. It happened to be in Niall's pocket.

When the laughing O'Callaghan said to the priest it was God calling, the priest, as if taking a cue from a straight man, replied, "Well, then I'm done."

Our sources tell us, at the reception, toasts following dinner featured family members and friends, with the best lines coming from former trainer and TVG analyst Frank Lyons and Ed "Indian Charlie" Musselman.

"In his boxing days, Niall was known as the Matchstick Kid," Lyons said. "One blow and he was out...his sponsors took out their ads on the bottom of his boots."

Lyons said repeatedly how O'Callaghan told him after meeting Conrad that, "I'm done chasing women," to which Lyons said, "I've seen a lot of dogs chasing cars, but I've never seen one driving one."

Injun Chuck followed Lyons to the microphone, quipping, "I loaned Niall a hundred bucks last week but, looking at this spread, I can tell I'll never see that again."

O'Callaghan regaled the crowd with how he landed in Miami, Fla., and was "the poor immigrant kid," from Ireland. He thanked Terry Meyocks for giving him a tack room in which to sleep and Joe Brocklebank for signing his green card.

Meyocks and Brocklebank were among the many attendees from the horse industry. Churchill Downs' Tony Terry and Karl Schmitt were there, as were trainer Pat Byrne and his wife, TVG's Jill Byrne, Juddmonte Farm manager Garrett O'Rourke, consignor James Keogh and his wife, The Blood-Horse photographer Anne Eberhardt, jockey Larry Melancon, and trainer Carl Nafzger.

The dance floor was filled by those such as trainer Wayne Catalano (it was his wife, Renee's birthday), former jockey Gary Stevens, farm owner David Mullins, and Ronnie Ebanks.

There was a reception after the reception at the local Irish pub Molly Malone's. What happened there was clearly, or not so clearly, "off the record."