03/15/2007 11:00PM

Beulah wins erase Rauf's doughnut


LEXINGTON, Ky. - Since 1990, Dr. Naseem Rauf has amassed what surely is the most futile training record in all of North American horse racing. His runners won two races from 76 starts in 1990, but since then, Rauf-trained horses have gone 0 for 343.

Yet when Rauf stood an excellent chance to win recently at Beulah Park, he opted to have his horses compete in the name of his assistant, Bill Shelley. "The racing office at Beulah asked me to keep them in my name," said Rauf. "I told them, I don't need the credit. Bill can use the publicity. He’s looking for other people's horses"

Sure enough, Amira Aman won March 9 by 3 1/4 lengths as the 3-5 favorite, and Mugal Ruler won three days later by 16 1/4 lengths, returning $9.40. Rauf bred and owns both Amira Aman and Mugal Ruler, and, according to Equibase statistics, which date to 1991, their victories were his first as an owner.

Born and raised in Burma before moving with his parents at age 14 to Toronto, Canada, Rauf got his medical degree from McGill University in Montreal in 1964. Now 72, he has practiced internal and emergency medicine for more than 40 years, all the while dabbling in the horse business. His grandparents on both sides owned Arabians, and Rauf has bred and owned horses for much of his adult life, concentrating on Thoroughbreds since the mid-1980's.

On a recent morning at the Thoroughbred Center, a training facility outside Lexington where he rents six stalls among the hundreds housed in the huge north-side barn, Rauf was initially reluctant to talk about his training career. After being handed a printout of his record, he said: "Oooh, that's terrible."

Such realism hardly seems to characterize the manner in which Rauf has operated his racing stable. His homebred runners invariably are of obscure pedigree and scant talent, and they are perennially overmatched while sent away at huge odds. "Even the oddsmakers make me 99-1," he said.

Rauf, who is missing his two front bottom teeth, explained with his broken British accent that he simply has an affinity for horses and that he is “broke” because of it. "He really does love these horses,” said Dean Young, who has worked for the last several months as a groom for Rauf. “But they cost a lot to maintain."

Rauf, who has never been married, said he is not employed by a particular hospital but that he is frequently called to fill in by hospitals or clinics from northern Ohio to Tennessee. Because of his work, he said he is able to be at the barn "maybe three or four times a week." This has been the arrangement for quite some time, with Shelley overseeing the daily routine. But until the two Beulah wins, the horses usually had run under Rauf's name, although occasionally in Shelley’s.

Rauf said he believed that if Amira Aman and Mugal Ruler had raced in his name last week, "they would have lost." He said he is "probably" through racing horses in his name as a trainer, although he believes an unraced 2-year-old filly named Gray Wonder may be worthy of him emerging from self-imposed retirement.

“We already have nominated her to the Bassinet Stakes,” a $100,000 stakes to be run Sept. 1 at River Downs, said Rauf. “We are going to make that race, even if it is her first start."

Rauf has no winner’s circle photos on the walls of his modest office at the Thoroughbred Center, not even from the years 1987 to 1990. In each of those years, he won two races; his overall training mark from 1984 to the present is eight wins from 671 starters.

Having gone such a long time between wins, Rauf said he was unpleasantly surprised that no one had bothered to reprise the time-honored ritual of bringing doughnuts to the barn on the morning after a win. “These jockey agents,” said Rauf. “They’re slipping these days.”