01/01/2002 1:00AM

Churchill's Jerry Botts dead at 54


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Jerry Botts, racing secretary at Churchill Downs since 1985, died suddenly Tuesday after been diagnosed last weekend with cancer of the lungs and liver. He was 54.

Botts, a Tennessee native who grew up near Churchill and had been a racing official for 30 years, worked throughout the fall meet that ended Nov. 24. He had been in relatively good health until recently stricken. He died at Norton Hospital in Louisville after being admitted Saturday.

Botts was widely known by horsemen as a straight shooter, someone who did not play favorites. "From the leading trainer to the guy with one horse, he treated them all the same," said Dale Romans, who for years has operated one of the largest stables at Churchill. "You could disagree with Jerry and he never held a grudge. He was fair, just like a racing secretary should be."

Botts was not married and had no children. Funeral arrangements were incomplete as of Tuesday evening.