06/06/2002 11:00PM

Bettors get short end of Dustproof's late scratch


FORT ERIE, Ontario - Many bettors were stung on Monday's final race when Dustproof, coupled with Profacy as an entry, was scratched shortly before the gates sprang open.

Dustproof, who was the reason the entry was going off as the 3-2 favorite, broke away as he was being loaded.

Making his Fort Erie bow for new trainer Layne Giliforte, Dustproof had made his Ontario debut at Woodbine where he finished sixth, beaten just 4 3/4 lengths, for a $14,000 claiming price. Monday, he was entered for $5,000.

The entry's backers were left holding tickets on Profacy, an unappealing horse with a mediocre work tab making his first start of the year.

Giliforte explained that Dustproof was headstrong as well as being big and strong. He first had a tug of war with the pony and then with the assistant starter, who was grasping the headgear. The buckle that holds the bit in the horse's mouth was pulled, and it popped the pin that holds it together. The bit fell out of the mouth.

"All of a sudden they didn't have anything on the horse to hold on to," said Giliforte, who has been the track's leading trainer for the last four years. "So [the rider] had to jump off and the kid had to let him go. It was a freak - something that you probably wouldn't see again."

Ed Hall, supervisor of Thoroughbred racing for the Ontario Racing Commission, subsequently notified the stewards at Fort Erie that they were to revert to the practice of backing all horses out of the starting gate should a runner be scratched during the loading. A short delay would follow.

"It's in the best interest of the public," said Hall. "The public has to have a chance to cancel or exchange their tickets."

But even if a delay had been employed after the scratch, holders of daily double and pick 3 tickets still would have been out of luck. In some jurisdictions, such as New York, the problem doesn't occur. In the case of a scratch, the remaining part of the entry is eliminated from the wagering and runs for purse money only. Refunds and consolations then come into play.

Hall said that the stewards were instructed last year in the delay procedure but got away from it toward the end of the year.

Complaints from the jockeys and the gate crew about potential dangers were instrumental in their action or nonaction on the matter.

"We do it at Woodbine and it works," said Hall. "And we'll do it here."

Rain grounds Giliforte barn

Giliforte, who was in second place in the standings going into the weekend action, is not too happy with the weather.

"We're doomed. Basically a third of my barn is turf," said Giliforte, referring to the torrential rains in the area. All three scheduled turf races here last week were taken off the grass.

Meanwhile, the Adena Springs Matchmaker, the first stakes race of the meeting, is scheduled to be run on the turf Tuesday. The five-furlong race, worth $60,000, is for fillies and mares.