10/18/2001 11:00PM

Bassett's career one of accomplishment

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ELMONT, N.Y. - Ted Bassett has earned the right to stand down as chairman of Keeneland's board of directors after 33 years of devoted service to the track, in Lexington, Ky., and to racing throughout the world.

With style and substance he directed the rebirth of` Keeneland from a country track into a world-class course, capable of playing host to Queen Elizabeth. And while dignitaries are well received at Keeneland, the track, under Bassett's supervision, has never forgotten that it is the public that foots the bill. Bassett's leadership resulted in record purses that attracted quality horses from around the nation. On his watch, state-of-the-art facilities were skillfully blended into a traditional setting, with a distinct flavor that makes an afternoon at Keeneland very special.

Bassett has always emphasized that no organization is better than its staff. He has consistently reached out for top people in every phase of racing, with rewarding results.

And none of the progress was achieved aggressively. The gracious manner has always been part of the Keeneland experience.

No racetrack has ever received more effective direction than Keeneland under Bassett, whose remarkable capacity enabled him to further the cause of Thoroughbred racing in many ways.

For eight years he was president of the Breeders' Cup, helping that organization to achieve new heights in prestige and recognition. He served as president of the Thoroughbred Racing Associations and gave the industry a distinguished voice. He played a key role in the founding of the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, which creates so much important good will for racing.

Bassett's achievements are international in scope. He heads the organization that presents a World Series of racing, linking important features from many of the world's leading racing countries and providing an informal congress to consider matters of broad interest.

Ted Bassett has done so much, and so well.

Piggott's predictions

Lester Piggott will be unable to attend the Breeders' Cup next week. The retired English riding great, who will be 66 next month, is flying to Australia to join author Dick Francis and some other friends at the Melbourne Cup.

Piggott has a keen interest in the Breeders' Cup, however, and expects the Europeans to win at least two events, though he acknowledges the handicap for horses traveling across the Atlantic.

He has high praise for those Breeders' Cup Classic rivals Fantastic Light and Galileo. He feels Fantastic Light may be better suited of the two for the 1 1/4-mile distance of the race, but adds the significant factor next weekend will be which of the two adjusts better to racing on dirt. He certifies the Arc de Triomphe winner, Sakhee, as a genuine racehorse.

Piggott, who was England's champion jockey 11 times and rode a record nine winners of the Epsom Derby, provided the Breeders' Cup with one of its most thrilling moments in 1990, when it was held at Belmont Park. Retired for five years, including a year in the slammer for tax evasion, he was given a ride on a good but not great miler named Royal Academy in the Breeders' Cup Mile.

Thirteen went to the post and Royal Academy dropped back to last. He was still eighth at the quarter pole but Piggott, at 54, put him in a fearful drive and got him up by a nose.

Cheering for the home team

John Gaines, who conceived the Breeders' Cup, will also miss next weekend's running but will be watching closely on television from his home in Lexington, Ky.

Gaines has a rooting interest. Three horses he bred and sold as weanlings may participate in the Breeders' Cup.

Black Minnaloushe (by Storm Cat), who brought $750,000, runs in the Classic. Caller One (Phone Trick), who sold for $235,000, will contest the Sprint. And Imperial Gesture (Langfuhr), who brought $359,000, was pre-entered in the Juvenile Fillies.

In addition to the dams of those three, Gaines's broodmare band, now owned by his children in partnership with Olin Gentry, also includes the granddams of four other Breeders' Cup runners. Gaines was always strong on class.