07/02/2003 11:00PM

Docs give Prather good news


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - With just one win from 17 mounts at the Churchill Downs spring meet, jockey Kris Prather may have thought she was doing poorly.

But after recently finding out that a tumor in her brain is benign and unlikely to cause her any trouble for years - if ever - Prather has a whole new outlook.

"She's as upbeat as ever," said her close friend, Churchill television personality Donna Brothers.

According to Brothers, after Prather was knocked unconscious for a few minutes in an early morning training accident June 26 at Churchill, she was transported to nearby Jewish Hospital for a precautionary CAT-scan. After doctors detected a foreign mass in her left temporal lobe, they had her brain examined by magnetic resonance imaging. The eventual diagnosis was a tumor of 1 1/2 inches in diameter.

But after further diagnosis and study, neurologists told Prather, 24, that the tumor probably has been in her brain since infancy and that its growth has been very slow.

"The doctors are going to monitor her every six months," said Brothers. "They told Kris that it's very doubtful she will have any effects from it for at least three to five years. They even cleared her to ride."

Prather, a Montana native, plans to ride at the upcoming Ellis Park meet, where Huey Lyons will serve as her agent.

Prather was a phenom as an apprentice in 2000-01, winning back-to-back meets at Turfway Park before being sidelined with knee injuries. Since then, she has never regained the same stature, and in recent months she even had resorted to exercise riding as her main source of income. Her lone winner at the current meet was Sky Trick, who returned $102.80 after winning the sixth race May 29.

Royal Spy not ready to run

Trainer Tom Amoss said Royal Spy has not yet recovered to his satisfaction from a minor injury suffered in early May. That's why Royal Spy was not entered in the Firecracker Handicap here Saturday.

"He strained a suspensory in a grass work just a few days after the Derby," said Amoss. "We'd hoped to run in the Firecracker but the timing isn't right. We're going to take our time with him and see what comes up."

In his most recent start, Royal Spy won the Grade 2 Maker's Mark Mile at Keeneland in April. He would have been the 118-pound highweight if able to start in the Firecracker.

Faster way for trainers to get paid

A new option that allows Kentucky trainers to automatically receive 10 percent of the owner's share of the purse will go into effect Wednesday with the start of the Ellis Park meet.

Trainers must obtain notarized authorization from the owner to have the funds available to them from the horsemen's bookkeeper. Jockeys already have their share of the purse automatically deducted on their behalf.

The change is part of a trend that within the last year or so has swept many racing jurisdictions, including California, New York, New Jersey, and Florida. The longstanding practice within the industry has been for trainers to bill owners for their share of the purse, meaning the funds often are not available for 30 days or even longer.

Standard practice for many trainers today is for them to charge 12 or 13 percent of the owner's purse. Those additional percentage points then go to assistants, grooms, exercise riders, etc., in the form of bonus pay. Under the new system, the trainer still would have to bill the owner for any remaining percentages.

Popular farrier hospitalized

David Woods, a farrier on the Kentucky circuit, was in critical but stable condition Thursday in the intensive care facility of Jewish Hospital after an aneurysm in his aorta burst the previous evening.

Woods, 49, called his older brother, longtime jockey Charlie Woods Jr., from his cell phone when driving and "asked me to pick him up, that he was feeling weak and thought he was going blind," said Charlie Woods, 52. After David Woods was checked into the emergency room, he was undergoing a dye test when he suddenly suffered the aneurysm. He then underwent eight hours of surgery.

"We're lucky that he's alive," said Charlie Woods. "After his aorta burst, the doctors gave him a 20 percent chance. Now we're waiting to see how he comes out of this, to see if there is any neurological damage and see if he'll get back all the use of his limbs."

Both of the Woods brothers are longtime fixtures at Churchill. David Woods, widely known as one of the hardest-working people on the backstretch, has shod horses for hundreds of trainers in a career of some 30 years.

Cuvee, Limehouse top stakes field

The prospective field for the Sunday feature, the $150,000 Bashford Manor Stakes, stands at about six, headed by the unbeaten colts Cuvee and Limehouse.

Other probables for the Grade 3, six-furlong Bashford Manor include Bustin' Out, Exploit Lad, First Money, and Next Bandit.

Close in more ways than one

The only thing closer than the amount of betting on the two favorites in the first race here Thursday was how they finished.

From a win pool of $90,905, there was $23,613 bet on Day Trade and $23,539 on Madeleine's Jade. Both were 2-1.

On the racetrack, that slim margin was reversed. Madeleine's Jade, getting a rail-skimming ride from Calvin Borel, beat Day Trade by a nose.

* Kyle Bailey and Mike Davis were the top two finishers Wednesday in the finals of Churchill's meet-long handicapping contest, earning both men a berth in the Daily Racing Form/NTRA Handicapping finals in Las Vegas in January. Bailey won $5,000 and Davis earned $2,500. Both men are from Louisville.