03/06/2002 1:00AM

Bridge-jumpers' bete noire returns


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - In any other sport, the fans might go so far as to throw tomatoes at the person they believe responsible for poor performance. Or heckle, or boo.

But after Pleasant County burned nearly $400,000 in show wagers by finishing fifth in the seventh race Feb. 15 at Gulfstream Park, trainer Mark Hennig was not subjected to any such vengeance.

"I think that guy was too far away," Hennig quipped Wednesday.

Indeed, two massive show bets were placed on Pleasant County that day, with a $200,000 bet from California and a $100,000 bet from New York accounting for the bulk of the extraordinarily large show pool, according to Gulfstream officials.

From a pool of $406,934, the amount bet on Pleasant County, the 2-5 favorite, was $396,410. When Pleasant County tired to finish fifth, the resulting show payoffs were $86, $351.40 and $125.80 on the first three finishers. The $351.40 payoff on the runner-up, Man I Love Clare, is believed to be a North American record for show.

Although the entire Gulfstream plant was abuzz about the mutuels, Hennig said he was not even remotely aware of them.

"I don't bet, and I'm not very tuned in to odds and such," he said. "I guess the people who lost all that money have cashed plenty of times before, but that's gambling to me. It sure looks like gambling when you do something like that."

On Friday, Pleasant County will race again for the first time since that stunning development. A 4-year-old filly bred and owned by Edward Evans, Pleasant County brought sensational credentials into her Feb. 15 defeat, having captured her two previous starts by a combined 14 3/4 lengths.

"We found after the race that she had a pretty serious lung infection, with quite a bit of blood and mucus," said Hennig. "She had missed a work leading up to the race, and I always believe that when a horse not on Lasix tries two turns for the first time, well, that's something they've never done."

Pleasant County will be treated with the anti-bleeding medication Lasix for the first time Friday when she turns back to seven furlongs against seven other fillies and mares in the ninth race. The second-level allowance carries a purse of $36,000. Far Sighted Sal, a winner in two of three starts, figures to challenge Pleasant County for favoritism.

The Friday co-feature, a $38,000, third-level allowance, is carded as the seventh race.

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