By Kathleen Adams
When trainer Bill Currin and wife Betty arrived on the backside of Churchill Downs Thursday morning a half-hour later than anticipated, a small entourage awaited them. "We were waiting for a wake-up call that didn't come," explained Betty Currin, owner of Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) contender Memorette. "We'll set an alarm clock tonight." As Betty apologized for the couple's tardiness, Bill Currin warmly acknowledged a woman standing outside of barn 41 with a peck on the check. Currin's affection for Catherine Parke will most likely deepen if Memorette wins the Oaks. That's because Parke has an intimate connection to the dark bay filly. She raised Memorette's dam, Fondre, at Valkyre Stud in Georgetown, Ky. The filly's grand dam, Forever Fondre, is buried on Parke's horse farm. "We think every baby out of this mare is going to be a champion," admitted Betty Currin, adding, "but that doesn't always happen." A North Carolina native, Bill Currin began training racehorses 32 years ago in California. His early background includes time spent on the hunter-jumper circuit which he says helped hone his eye for horse flesh.Memorette was still a yearling when Currin realized she possessed the necessary talent to run in the Oaks."She had the appearance, demeanor and ability to move like her grandmother," he said. "And she was treated accordingly. She thinks her real name is Greta Garbo."Bill Currin gave Betty his half of the homebred as a Christmas present two years ago."I was too damn lazy to go Christmas shopping," he joked.The seemingly jovial manner turned serious when asked to assess Memorette's Oaks competition."I think the field is strong," Currin said. "And we feel we have a superior filly. If I didn't feel I could beat Sis City, I wouldn't be here."Memorette has one stakes victory, that coming in a state-restricted race at Santa Anita in December. She has a record of 2-3-3 in 10 starts with earnings of $348,325 after three consecutive grade I stakes placings. She is coming off a distant third-place finish behind Sis City at Keeneland's Ashland (gr. I) April 9. Prior to that, she ran second to Sweet Catomine in the Santa Anita Oaks (gr. I) and was runner-up to Sharp Lisa in the Las Virgenes (gr. I), losing the race in the stretch after jockey Kent Desormeaux lost his whip.On Sunday, Memorette breezed five-eighths of a mile in 1:01 4/5 at Churchill Downs. Still in California, Currin watched the work-out on television."It was a good finish," he said. "To do more would have been showing off and this is not a horse show, it's a horse race."This morning, the daughter of Memo was scheduled to gallop a mile and a sixteenth.For assistant trainer Ignacio Correas, the most disappointing performance of Memorette's career came in last month's Ashland Stakes (gr. I) when she finished 13 1/2 lengths behind Sis City."I think this track will favor her much more than Keeneland," Correas said.