04/01/2005 1:00AM

Day, in rehab after surgery, won't push it

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Hall of Fame jockey Pat Day has begun rehabilitation in Vail, Colo., following surgery on his right hip Wednesday. When contacted by Churchill Downs officials, he called the surgery a success, while noting that the cartilage damage lining his hip joint was more extensive than initially believed.

The 51-year-old Day plans to continue his rehabilitation in Vail until April 9 before returning to his home in Louisville. He said he maintains faint hopes of riding in the Kentucky Derby on May 7. He has ridden in a record 21 consecutive Kentucky Derbies.

"We haven't thrown it out the window yet," Day was quoted as saying in a Churchill Downs press release. "The physical therapist as well as the doctor said that I was responding better than any patient they've ever had in the way that I was able to get up and get around. We still have hope, but we're not going to press it."

Before the surgery, Day had said doctors estimated he would be away from riding from four to 12 weeks, depending on the extent of his hip injury and his rehabilitation progress.

Day has 8,780 career victories, putting him fourth on racing's all-time win list behind Laffit Pincay Jr., Russell Baze, and Bill Shoemaker. He won the Kentucky Derby in 1992 aboard Lil E. Tee and has recorded eight other victories in Triple Crown races.

Lil Red Flyer sizzles for new owner

Between graduating from college and pursuing a medical degree, Kendall Hansen took some time off from school and bet horses. He did well, he said, earning enough to pay for some of his medical school education.

Now an anesthesiologist with a clinic that treats spinal pain in the Florence, Ky., area, Hansen, 49, remains an avid horseplayer. He said he hit the pick six at Turfway on Wednesday evening for $22,641, in part because of Lil Red Flyer, a horse he owns, rolling to a track-record victory in the eighth race, an optional $45,000 claimer. "Naturally I singled him," he said.

Contacted at his office Friday morning, Hansen seemed prouder of the horse than of his own score, describing Lil Red Flyer as electric. He had a reason to feel proud after watching Lil Red Flyer win by 2 3/4 lengths, racing six furlongs over a fast racetrack in 1:07.97, which eclipsed the Turfway record of Appealing Skier, who was timed in 1:08.24 winning the Grade 2 Kentucky Cup Sprint over a sloppy Turfway surface in 1996. Lil Red Flyer earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 103.

The victory came in his first start for Hansen, who claimed the horse on the advice of trainer Lars Becdelamotte for $25,000. Hansen credited his trainer for the victory, adding that Becdelamotte treated the horse for an inflamed left knee after they claimed him.

Lil Red Flyer, a son of speed sire Groovy, is one of only two horses Becdelamotte trains, the other being a low-level claimer named Proud Night. Proud Night gave Becdelamotte the first victory of his training career when he won a $7,500 claiming race at Turfway on Feb. 17.

Becdelamotte, 38, a native of Denmark who lived in Sweden before moving permanently to the United States in 1998, said he feels fortunate to train a track-record-setting horse after just going out on his own earlier this year. Previously, he had worked as an assistant for trainer Tom Van Berg.

Becdelamotte said an allowance race at Keeneland on April 20 would likely be the Lil Red Flyer's next start. With the horse relaxing in his morning gallops for exercise rider Julie Kohls, "there is still room for improvement," the trainer said.

Becdelamotte can take heart in training for a winning owner. Hansen is 6 for 6 this year with the two horses he owns. Skip Irish, his other runner, has won all five of his 2005 starts, all in starter-allowance company at Fair Grounds for trainer Steve Asmussen.

Things have not always gone so well for Hansen. In 1995, four of his horses died in a barn fire at Ellis Park. He stopped owning horses shortly thereafter before starting up again a couple of years ago.

Now Hansen is riding high, and he hopes his success can continue.

"In 1994 here at the winter-spring meet I won 10 in a row," he said. "I know how hard it is to one win race - it was like DiMaggio's hitting streak."

* Sunday's featured eighth race at Turfway, a $25,400 first-level allowance for 3-year-old fillies, likely boils down to a 6 1/2-furlong battle between Satiable, Judy's Gem, and Independent Cat. The latter two, uncoupled stablemates trained by Greg Foley, will seek to outlast the late-running Satiable, who finished a fast-closing second racing in the mud at Turfway March 20.