RISE OF ROMANS EMPIRE CONTINUES AT CHURCHILL DOWNS - The victory by Zayat Stables' Melo in Thursday's first race was the 450th triumph beneath the Twin Spires for trainer Dale Romans, moving him past D. Wayne Lukas into second place all time at Churchill Downs.
Hall of Famer Bill Mott is the all-time wins leader at Churchill Downs with 592.
"I knew we were getting close to the top few and somebody told me in the spring that I was getting close to Wayne," Romans said. "I've sure got a ways to go to get to Bill."
A 42-year-old native of Louisville, Romans began training in 1986 and saddled his first winner at Churchill Downs on Nov. 12, 1987, with Final Destroyer.
Son of former Churchill Downs trainer Jerry Romans, Dale has won eight training titles (Spring 2000-03, 2005-06 and Fall 2003 and 2005) at Churchill Downs and has 17 stakes wins.
"Final Destroyer. Man, that goes a long way back," Romans said Friday morning while watching his horses train from the viewing stand by the half-mile pole.
Trainer Ken McPeek was in the stand at the same time.
"Final Destroyer? He was my maiden winner at River Downs in 1985 (Oct. 27)," McPeek said. "My dad and I bought him for $3,000 and your dad bought him off us at Latonia."
Final Destroyer won for a $10,000 maiden tag for McPeek and won one other time in 11 total starts before going to the Romans barn in February 1986. For Dale and Jerry Romans, Final Destroyer ran 30 times with three victories, the last delivering Dale's initial Churchill Downs win.
"What I'd like to do is match Bill's stakes wins here (74)," Romans said, "and Wayne's (Kentucky) Derby wins (four)."
For good measure in Melo's victory, Romans also saddled the runner-up, Charco for the Heiligbrodt Racing Stable, to complete a $107 exacta.
EUROEARS POINTED TO NOV. 22 BET ON SUNSHINE - Marilyn and James Helzer's Euroears was all set and ready to return to the races two weeks ago from an injury, but it was not to be.
"He just tied up a couple days before the race," said Dennis "Peaches" Geier, assistant to trainer Bret Calhoun. "He's doing fine and he'll probably run in the Bet On Sunshine next week."
A 4-year-old son of Langfuhr, Euroears has won all six of his career starts. But soon after taking the Duncan F. Kenner at Fair Grounds in March, Euroears suffered a non-displaced condylar fracture of his right hind leg and was on the shelf for six months.
Euroears resumed working at Churchill Downs in September and had four works at Keeneland in preparation for the Oct. 30 race. Since scratching out of that race Euroears worked a half-mile in :48 here on Nov. 8.
Nominations for the six-furlong Bet On Sunshine close Saturday for the Nov. 22 race and in addition to Euroears, it could draw Summerplace Farm's Kelly's Landing.
"I'm not sure yet," trainer Eddie Kenneally said of Kelly's Landing's participation in the Bet On Sunshine.
Kelly's Landing, winner of the 2005 Aristides (GIII) here, came back from a 4 ½-month layoff to win a six-furlong sprint on Oct. 17 at Keeneland.
NOMINATIONS CLOSE FOR FIVE STAKES ON SATURDAY- Saturday is closing day for nominations for five stakes, including four Grade II events slated for Thanksgiving Weekend.
The richest of the stakes is the $400,000-added Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare (GII) to be run at 1 1/8 miles on the main track on Friday, Nov. 28. On Thanksgiving Day, the fillies and mares will get their chance at the same distance in the $150,000-added Falls City Handicap (GII).
Highlighting the closing-day "Stars of Tomorrow II" card that features all 2-year-olds are the Golden Rod (GII) for the fillies and the open Kentucky Jockey Club (GII). Both races are 1 1/16 miles on the main track.
Also closing Saturday is the Bet On Sunshine, a $61,000 overnight handicap for sprinters 3-years-old and up going six furlongs on the main track on Saturday, Nov. 22.
BARN TALK - Julien Leparoux rode two winners Thursday to hike his total for the meet to 35. Leparoux is averaging 2.5 wins a day through the first 14 days of the 26-day meet and is on pace for 65, which would shatter the Fall Meet record of 55 set by Pat Day in 1985. ... Stonestreet Stable cut loose a promising runner Thursday when Misty Lady (ARG) won the eighth race by five lengths under Shaun Bridgmohan. Breaking from the rail in the six-furlong allowance optional claiming sprint, Misty Lady broke last in the field of six, quickly moved to challenge pace-setting Be Golden while under a snug hold and cruised home in 1:11.87 over a track rated as "good." "I'm not sure what's next for her," said Scott Blasi, assistant to trainer Steve Asmussen. "She has been in the barn for about four or five months since we bought her in Argentina." Fourth in her U.S. debut last month at Keeneland, Misty Lady now has won five of nine career starts that include Group I and II wins last year in Argentina. ... The smile on jockey John McKee's face was a bit broader Friday morning after the rider snapped an 0-for-49 run to start the Fall Meet with two victories on Thursday. "I was hoping it would be sooner than later," McKee said of the wins aboard Not Me But U ($57.80) in the third and Nafass ($33) in the fifth. "I guess everybody goes through streaks like that." McKee, who was the leading rider of the 2004 Fall Meet with 27 victories, plans to ride this winter at Turfway Park.
WORK TAB - Oxbow Racing's Steve's Double, a four-time stakes winner, worked five furlongs over a fast track in 1:01 for trainer Ronny Werner. Mushka, winner of the 2007 Demoiselle (GII), worked a half-mile in :52.
INAUGURAL "RIDER CUP" ON SATURDAY - Retired Hall of Fame jockeys Pat Day and Angel Cordero Jr. will captain Team U.S.A. and Team World, respectively, in Saturday's inaugural "Rider Cup" for charity.
The unique event will showcase American-born jockeys versus foreign-born jockeys in a competition for points in Races 4-8.
Before each of the five designated races, the celebrity team captains will choose one jockey to represent their respective team with hope of earning coveted points. No jockey can be chosen more than twice in the series. Points will be awarded on a 3-2-1 scale for first, second and third place finishes in each race. If neither jockey hits the board, the rider with the best finish will be awarded a half-point.
The team with the most points at the conclusion of Race 8 will be crowned the winner and a $10,000 donation will be made to the charity of the winning team's choice. The charity of the second place team will win a $5,000 donation.
Pre-race selections by the captains will be showcased on-track with Churchill Downs' John Asher serving as host.
Based on Saturday's entries for Races 4-8, Team U.S.A. will be comprised of Robby Albarado (born in Lafayette, La.); E.T. Baird (Chicago, Ill.); Calvin Borel (St. Martin, La.); Kent Desormeaux (Maurice, La.); Julio Garcia (Santurce, Puerto Rico); Tracy Hebert (Erath, La.); John McKee (Cincinnati, Ohio); Brandon Meier (Elk Grove, Ill.); Larry Melancon (Breaux Bridge, La.); Perry Ouzts (Lepanto, Ark.); Hector Rosario Jr. (Fajardo, Puerto Rico); and Bill Troilo (Philadelphia, Pa.).
Team World will be Shaun Bridgmohan (Kingston, Jamaica); Aldo Canchano (Huancayo, Peru); Jesus Castanon (Mexico City, Mexico); Ramon Dominguez (Caracas, Venezuela); Inez Karlsson (Goteberg, Sweden); Julien Leparoux (Senlis, France); Miguel Mena (Lima, Peru); and Diego Rodriguez (Guanajuato City, Mexico).
DAY, CORDERO AUTOGRAPH SESSION ON SATURDAY - Before the start of Saturday's inaugural "Rider Cup" for charity, Hall of Fame jockeys Pat Day and Angel Cordero Jr. will take part in a free autograph session with area horse racing fans from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on the second floor of the clubhouse near the PEB jockey and trainer murals.
ROBBY ALBARADO GLASS GIVEAWAY ON SATURDAY - The week's promotional calendar is highlighted by the second of three collectable hurricane glass giveaways that salute popular Cajun jockeys who ride at Churchill Downs. A Robby Albarado glass, sponsored by GE, will be given away to the first 5,000 paid and pre-paid admissions on Saturday, Nov. 15.
Fans who receive the glass can come back to Churchill Downs on Sunday, Nov. 16 for an autograph session with Albarado on the second floor of the clubhouse (time to be announced).
A glass depicting Calvin Borel, sponsored by Thorntons, was given away Nov. 8. The Kent Desormeaux glass, presented by Kentucky Derby Party, will be given away on Nov. 22.
HORSES AND HOPE ON SUNDAY - "Horses and Hope," a new initiative created by Kentucky First Lady Jane Beshear with the Kentucky Cancer Program, will be held Sunday. The event, centered on the women who work in the barn areas at Kentucky racetracks, is designed to provide breast cancer awareness, education, screening and treatment referral.
In conjunction with the event, the color pink will be scattered throughout Churchill Downs on Sunday, including the saddle towels for the featured fifth race that will honor "Horses and Hope." Pink will also be featured on jockey's arm bands, groom's vests, outriders, flags, bunting and trophies for winning horse owners. There also will be a special pink cosmopolitan drink on sale with proceeds going to "Horses and Hope."
More than 900 cancer survivors are expected to attend the races in Millionaire's Row Four and Skye Terrace Five on Sunday. After the fifth race, there will be a group picture near the Aristides statue in the paddock garden.