11/05/2003 12:00AM

Amoss focusing on present


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - At some recent fall meets at Churchill Downs, trainer Tom Amoss would hold back a few bullets for Fair Grounds, the New Orleans track that traditionally starts its four-month meet on Thanksgiving Day.

But not this year. Amoss, with 45 horses split between Churchill and Fair Grounds, said the financial troubles in which Fair Grounds has become immersed has led him to focus primarily on the remainder of the Churchill meet.

"The way things are shaping up in New Orleans, I owe it to my owners to run as much as I can here," said Amoss.

Amoss would have had two horses in the Friday feature at Churchill, a $48,800 sprint that serves as the lone allowance on a 10-race program, but one of the entrants, Crafty Rocket, no longer is trained by Amoss. In fact, Crafty Rocket is one of nine horses whom owner Roger Devenport recently had transferred from Amoss to Dallas Stewart, marking yet another change of trainers for Devenport, the 84-year-old Lexington resident who made a fortune in the butter business in Wisconsin.

"Over the last few years, Mr. Devenport's horses have gone from myself to Dallas to Dave Vance to Dallas to me to Dallas," Amoss said with good humor.

Crafty Rocket, a 3-year-old colt, won his first two career starts for Amoss before being sidelined with a fractured shinbone that required surgery. In his Oct. 12 comeback at Keeneland, Crafty Rocket finished sixth in a race that Amoss said "the horse really needed."

With Crafty Rocket gone, Amoss still is represented by Formal Decree, a hard-trying gelding who also appears to fit well under the governing two-other-than condition. "With him, what you see is what you get," said Amoss.

Other top contenders in the ninth of 10 Friday races are New Kid in Town, a rousing recent winner at Keeneland, and Truman's Raider, an easy winner in his second start off a layoff for former D. Wayne Lukas assistant Mike Maker.

* Shane Sellers, who is named to ride Crafty Rocket, took off his mounts Tuesday and Wednesday because of an unspecified ailment.

* Yell and Awesome Humor are the likely favorites in the Saturday feature, the $200,000 Churchill Downs Distaff Handicap. A field of about eight is expected for the one-mile race.

* Trainer Paul McGee has ruled out his turf star, Honor in War, for the Nov. 28 Clark Handicap, the Grade 2 race for which Medaglia d'Oro is the early favorite.