02/13/2004 12:00AM

Another night's card called off

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Picking a winner at Turfway Park has been impossible this week - but that has nothing to do with unplayable longshots or rotten handicapping luck.

The Florence, Ky., track canceled its live program again Friday, the third straight night that unusable track conditions had forced officials to cancel. Prevailing temperatures that have been hovering above and below the 32-degree freezing mark in recent days have left the racing surface in a perpetually uneven state, giving officials little choice but to cancel racing for the sake of safety.

Through Friday, Turfway had canceled seven complete cards and parts of four others since the winter-spring meet began Jan. 1. Officials were hoping that racing could resume Saturday with a 12-race program highlighted by the Dust Commander Stakes, or at least by Sunday, when the scheduled feature is a $28,500 allowance route for 3-year-olds.

Racing was most recently conducted at Turfway last Sunday, Feb. 8, although that program was cut short after just three races. Jockey Perry Ouzts registered his 4,500th career victory in the third race that day when Private Ambition led throughout to win for trainer Steve Cahill.

Rouck pulls through

Marty Rouck, who for more than 25 years has worked as both a trainer and mutuel clerk, is having a decent winter - especially considering what he went through last year.

Rouck, 58, underwent heart surgery in May, then survived a bout with prostate cancer later that summer. Rouck said Friday that he has had a clean bill of health for several months and has been back training a small stable of horses at his year-round base at the Trackside training center in Louisville, where he also works as a mutuel clerk.

Rouck has a leading candidate for the Feb. 21 Valdale Stakes in Plum Lake Lady, a 3-year-old filly who won an entry-level sprint at Turfway in her last start.

President drumming up business

Bob Elliston, president of Turfway, traveled to Gulfstream Park this weekend to solicit nominations for the track's showcase race, the $500,000 Lane's End Stakes, which will be run March 20. Nominations close Wednesday.

The main local prep for the 1 1/8-mile Lane's End is the $100,000 John Battaglia Memorial, a 1 1/16-mile race set for Feb. 28.

Offtrack centers busy

This is the time of year at wagering outlets such as Trackside and Keeneland that considerably more fans turn out for simulcasting than normal. That's because the dominant tracks currently operating are Gulfstream and Santa Anita, and signals from neither of those Magna-owned tracks are shown on Television Games Network because of a policy rift.

So instead of staying home as they usually do to watch the best racing available on TVG, a substantial number of fans return to their local simulcasting facilities to catch the action.