Ailing Day Wins 34th Churchill Riding Title
Hall of Fame jockey Pat Day took off all of his mounts on the closing day at the Churchill Downs' fall meet - missing his third straight day of action - but the 50-year-old marvel will win his record 34th riding title at the track anyway.
Day will win the riding crown with 41 wins. Day has now won 19 fall racing titles at Churchill and four in a row since Calvin Borel snatched the fall crown from Churchill Downs' all-time leading rider in 1999.
Agent Doc Dannersaid Day was feeling "a little bit better" on Saturday, but not well enough to ride.
"If Pat can't give you 110 percent, he's not going to ride," said Danner. "I tried to talk him into coming in to ride a couple of horses, but he said 'no'."
Day's fall meet was unusual in that none of his 41 victories came in a stakes race. It marks the first meet since the autumn session in 1996 that Day did not ride a stakes winner.
Dale Romans has already wrapped up his first fall training crown under the Twin Spires and completed a sweep of Churchill Downs' spring and fall sessions for the first time. Romans won the 2003 Spring Meet title outright after sharing that crown in the three previous years.
On top his mounting collection of titles, Romans has established new records for victories in taking both of his 2003 titles at Churchill Downs. He saddled a record 39 winners in the spring and a win by Radiantly ($55.80) on Friday was his 19th at the current meet, which allowed him to surpass the previous fall record shared by T.W. Kelly in 1974 and Ed Brown in 1881. Romans is to saddle six horses on the meet's closing day.
"It's been a great year," said Romans. "To win both meets and set records in both of them is a lot more than we could have ever expected."
Romans' fall title came on the heels of a Keeneland meet in which Romans saddled only two winners from 32 starters. But one of those victories was an upset win by Michael Bruder's M B Sea in the Fayette Stakes (gr. III) on the meet's closing day.
"We didn't win that many races at Keeneland, but I wasn't that bothered because the horses were training good and I knew that eventually that it would turn around and we'd catch some breaks," he said. "As soon as we won the race with M B Sea we started clicking."
Romans has enjoyed success at high profile meets at Keeneland and Saratoga, but his success at Churchill Downs is undeniably special to the Louisville native. The son of the late Churchill Downs trainer Jerry Romans literally grew up on the Churchill Downs backside, which makes his still-growing success at Churchill Downs even more special.
"Churchill is definitely special to me," said Romans. "I grew up three miles from Churchill and my mother still lives in the same house and all of my familyis here. Churchill has always been a big part of our lives, so to do well there is very important."
Ken and Sarah Ramsey long ago wrapped up another owner's title. The Nicholasville, Ky. couple had 12 victories heading into the meet's final day and have now won the owners' title an unprecedented eight consecutive Churchill Downs meets, including four fall meets. The string started with a three-way tie in the Spring Meet of 2000. They have won the title outright at every other Churchill Downs race meet during their remarkable run.