03/20/2003 1:00AM

After 25 years, Mr. Cauthen takes a bow


FLORENCE, Ky. - The 25-year remembrances begin Saturday for Steve Cauthen. As the last jockey to win the Triple Crown - on Affirmed in 1978 - Cauthen likely will be the toast of quite a few tributes this year.

Besides giving away Cauthen bobblehead dolls with the first 7,000 paid admissions Saturday, Turfway has planned a formal winner's circle ceremony during Saturday's Lane's End program to recognize Cauthen and the 25-year anniversary of the last Triple Crown.

Turfway president Bob Elliston said he and other officials at the track feel privileged to be the first this year to honor Cauthen, who lives on a breeding farm with his wife, Amy, and three daughters, less than 20 minutes from the track. Cauthen has served as a spokesman for Turfway for about the last 10 years.

"He's been a wonderful ambassador for Turfway and for racing in general," said Elliston.

Cauthen was a mere 18 when he and Affirmed won their legendary battles with Alydar and Jorge Velasquez. He said Thursday at a Turfway press luncheon that he was recently contacted by Ed Siegenfeld of Triple Crown Productions and that 25-year tributes at some or all of the Triple Crown host tracks are in the planning stages.

"I'd kind of like to have some sort of poster made up that Jorgie [Velasquez] and I could sign so we could make some money for disabled jockeys or something," he said. "Put all this attention to good use."

Like most people honored with bobbleheads, Cauthen said he has been taking a lot of good-natured ribbing lately. "The one good thing is that my daughters finally respect me," he said with a grin. "They think that if you're a bobblehead then you must be somebody."

Pony up

Some tracks raise admission prices for their biggest days of the year, and some don't. Fans have to pay extra to attend events such as the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Breeders' Cup, but less prestigious events typically do not command higher admission prices.

At Turfway, where everyday admission is free, the charge to attend on Lane's End Day is $10. Elliston called the price "reasonable" and said that in previous years "we have rarely gotten complaints about the price to get in. This is a premier day for us, and people don't seem to mind the $10 as long as they have a good time."

Elliston said getting a Cauthen bobblehead could be more than enough for patrons to recoup their $10. "Bobbleheads are going for $70 on e-Bay," he said, referring to the popular Internet auction website.

Lane's End Day is easily the best-attended every year at Turfway, with some 15,000 likely to show up Saturday. The crowd tends to include people in their 20's and 30's, exactly the demographic racing officials say is most desirable.

More security

In large part because of concerns about the war with Iraq that began Wednesday night, Turfway has more than doubled its uniformed security force for Saturday, said Elliston.

"The Boone County Sheriff's Office and the city of Florence have been extremely cooperative with us," he said. "Obviously, with the war going on, we're faced with a different situation now."

Annual awards to be presented

As is customary on Lane's End Day, the Kentucky Thoroughbred Media will present its annual awards to the top Kentucky horsemen of 2002 between races Saturday.

Scheduled to be honored are owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey, trainer Bernie Flint, and jockey Jon Court - winners of the most races on the Kentucky circuit in their respective categories last year. Only Court, who is riding at Oaklawn, will not be present; jockey Brian Peck will accept the award on his behalf.

Bejarano shows his stuff

The Turfway winter-spring meet has seen the emergence not only of jockey Jason Lumpkins, but also of Rafael Bejarano, who has been exceptionally hot since Turfway resurfaced its racetrack earlier this month.

Bejarano, 20, attended the same jockey school in Peru that Edgar Prado, now one of North America's top riders, attended in the 1980's. Bejarano moved to the U.S. last year on Prado's advice.

Last weekend at Turfway, Bejarano won his first stakes race in Kentucky, riding Mail Call to win the Tejano Run Stakes. Wednesday night, he rode four winners, and if current trends continue, he figures to finish a comfortable second behind Lumpkins in the jockey standings when the meet ends April 3.

Steve Elzey is the agent for both Lumpkins and Bejarano.

Sowle returns with a bang

Probably the most noteworthy training feats at Turfway this winter belong to Scott Sowle, a former Michigan-based jockey who about a year ago returned to training after an 11-year hiatus.

Sowle, 37, has won with 9 of 16 starters, with his most recent winner being Do It My Way, a former $5,000 claimer who won a third-level allowance race last weekend. Sowle is married to jockey Mary Doser, and between them, they are virtually the only people to get aboard the eight horses in his Turfway-based stable.

"I like to know where they're at," said Sowle. "We're really hands on. I can't take on too many horses because then you tend to lose touch."

Sowle said he and Doser plan to return to Great Lakes Downs later this spring but that they could move permanently to Kentucky if alternative gaming at racetracks is not approved in Michigan soon.