12/19/2003 1:00AM

Bejarano wins five, sets meet record


FLORENCE, Ky. - Jockey Rafael Bejarano won five races at Turfway Park Thursday night, pushing his meet record to 40 wins in 115 rides and breaking the holiday meet riding record.

Bejarano's 40th win, which surpasses Fabio Arguello's record of 39 winners set in 1991, came on only the 13th card of the 22-day meet, and fittingly occurred in the featured eighth race. Riding Smiling Sky for trainer Paul McGee in a $26,900 second-level allowance, Bejarano and Smiling Sky went to the lead and drew away to win by 11 1/4 lengths. Owned by The Crew II, Smiling Sky ran the mile in 1:40.44 on a good track and paid $9.

"He's hot and riding good, getting all the live mounts," said McGee. "He's a good rider. He is deserving of the record."

Bejarano's record-breaking win was his fifth winning mount on the night, the second time this meet he has won five races on one card. Four other times this meet he has won four races on a card, and on no card all meet has he failed to win at least one race.

A 21-year-old Peruvian, Bejarano rode for the first time in the United States on July 10, 2002, at River Downs. His career took off last winter at Turfway, when he finished second with 41 wins during the winter-spring meet, despite losing a month because of a broken ankle. This summer he became leading rider at Ellis Park and at Turfway during its fall meet.

Bejarano has dreams of eventually competing against the nation's leading riders, but in the meantime he is focusing on Turfway and blocking out the distractions that come with success. He said he studies the past performances and tries to "forget about everything else and keep my mind on racing and riding."

Smith and Panic Stable split

As a result of moving his base from Chicago to Kentucky, trainer Jere Smith Jr. has parted company with his longtime owner Paul Gange of Panic Stable. Smith said Gange wants to continue racing in Chicago, where Smith had previously run Gange's horses for about half the year. "I want to be in Kentucky," Smith said. "My horses all run good here. I feel comfortable here."

Smith and Panic Stable scored with their last starter together - Albert E., who won an allowance race by disqualification Dec. 12 at Turfway.

Smith now trains seven horses at Turfway, down from the 15-20 horses he had under his care when Panic Stable was aboard. He said he might pick up some horses from owners that have horses in Chicago with his father, trainer Jere Smith Sr., who is battling cancer.

Mauk Eight seeks win No. 3

Mauk Eight heads a field of seven sprinters in Sunday's featured ninth race, a $26,900 nonwinners-of-three allowance at six furlongs. The race is one of three allowances on the 10-race program.

A winner of 2 of 6 starts and $60,775, Mauk Eight comes off an eighth-place finish against a classier field at Churchill Downs Nov. 26. That race was his first start since May, and Mauk Eight tired from chasing a hotly contested pace.

Earlier this year he was a runaway winner of an allowance race at Turfway. He also won a fast entry-level allowance at Churchill Downs. Bejarano rides for trainer Bernie Flint.

The main opposition is Wildman Joey and Digimon, two colts who performed well in allowance races at Hawthorne in the fall.

Butler gets five-day suspension

Jockey Dean Butler has been suspended five racing days by Turfway stewards for careless riding in last Sunday's fourth race. His suspension was to begin Saturday and runs through Dec. 28.

Butler was riding Melissa's Luv Song, who came into the path of When Doves Fly in midstretch. Unable to avoid Melissa's Luv Song, When Doves Fly clipped heels and fell, unseating her rider, Jeff Johnston. Melissa's Luv Song, who crossed the wire third, was disqualified and placed last.

Johnston escaped without serious injury. He resumed riding on Wednesday, winning the third race with Dueling Banjo.

* Turfway stewards also fined Jason Lumpkins $500 for failing to persevere with his mount in the sixth race last Sunday. Lumpkins rode favored Explosive Count to fourth-place finish in a race in which the top six finishers were separated by less than 1 1/2 lengths. Explosive Count lost by three-quarters of a length, and was beaten in a photo for third.

* There is no racing at Turfway Park on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. Racing resumes Friday.