05/17/2004 12:00AM

Churchill excludes agent


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Michael McGary, the agent for jockey Dean Butler who is known as Clarence, has been barred from Churchill Downs and all its properties, allegedly because he cashed other bettors' winning tickets that required IRS paperwork.

IRS tickets, regularly called "signers" by horseplayers, require a winning bettor to furnish his/her signature, social security number, and other pertinent information to the government in a W-2G form. The IRS requires reporting of payoffs that exceed odds of more than 300-1 and pay in excess of $600.

Some bettors who wish to avoid a paper trail of their winnings will sometimes have another person cash the ticket for them. In exchange, that person is generally compensated with a percentage of the ticket by the winning ticketholder. The practice is common but illegal.

Churchill Downs president Steve Sexton confirmed the exclusion of McGary but would not discuss the circumstances of the decision to remove him.

"It's our policy to not comment on anything disciplinary or exclusionary," he said.

McGary was removed from the track Saturday afternoon. He had been in the Churchill Downs Twin Spires Gold Room, a VIP area frequented by high rollers and horsemen.

While barred from Churchill Downs and its properties, McGary will be denied access to the frontside, the backstretch, and any property owned by the track, Sexton said. Without being able to meet face to face with trainers and horsemen in these areas, his career in Kentucky as a jockey's agent could be in jeopardy - at least at Churchill Downs and another Churchill Downs-owned property, Ellis Park.

"To the extent that he can continue his work outside of Churchill Downs, he may do so," Sexton said. "But not to the extent of coming on property."

Sexton said it would be up to management at other tracks to decide if they would also exclude him.

McGary, reached by telephone, declined comment on his exclusion.

"I really can't say anything about it right now," he said.

McGary said that he was trying to resolve the matter and that the exclusion would have no immediate effect on his role as a jockey's agent because Butler just began serving a 15-day suspension for careless riding.

Sexton said McGary was not singled out because of his position as an agent. Churchill Downs has excluded other patrons for improperly cashing IRS tickets, he said.

"We will take action if what they are doing is detrimental or against the law," Sexton said.

Racetracks have come under more pressure by the IRS in recent years. Last fall the New York Racing Association was fined $3 million in a scandal that involved tax fraud and the mutuel room.

Butler loses his cool

Butler began his 15-day suspension Sunday. It continues through May 30.

Stewards suspended him for careless riding in the seventh race May 14. Butler, riding Six Trix, shoved jockey Rhonda Collins, who was aboard Guaranteeddelivery, when they raced in tight quarters in the stretch.

Guaranteeddelivery swerved outward as Collins struggled to regain her balance. Guaranteeddelivery finished last of 12, and Six Trix ran ninth. The incident occurred at the back of the pack, with neither horse in contention.

Steward Rick Leigh said Butler told the stewards he lost his cool.

Melancon inches closer to Day

In winning Saturday's Open Mind Stakes aboard Anna Em, jockey Larry Melancon moved into second place behind Pat Day for the most stakes victories at Churchill Downs. His 47th stakes victory at Churchill broke a tie he shared with Hall of Famer Don Brumfield.

"Now I've got to chase Pat, huh?" Melancon said, smiling.

Alumni Hall featured in fourth

Wednesday's card offers some of the best weekday racing of the meet. Besides the featured ninth race - a money allowance for stakes-quality sprinters - there are four other allowances on the program. Only one of the five allowances drew fewer than 10 horses.

That allowance, the fourth race, attracted Alumni Hall - who likely has the distinction of being the fastest locally based 5-year-old with only one victory.

A son of A. P. Indy, Alumni Hall has raced twice, winning at first asking at Keeneland on April 3 and following with a second in an entry-level allowance at Belmont May 5. That effort earned him a 99 Beyer Speed Figure.

Alumni Hall had some nagging problems as a younger horse, but they are apparently behind him now. Trainer Neil Howard said he was eager to stretch out Alumni Hall to a route of 1 1/8 miles.

"Two turns should be right up his alley," Howard said.

Alumni Hall is a full brother to Secret Status, who won the Kentucky Oaks at 1 1/8 miles in 2000.

* Grade 1 Test winner Lady Tak was assigned high weight of 122 pounds for Saturday's inaugural running of the Winning Colors Handicap at six furlongs. She is expected to start along with Put Me In (117), Surf N Sand (117), My Trusty Cat (115), and Halory Leigh (113).