07/30/2002 11:00PM

Dr. Patches is dead at 28

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - Dr. Patches, North America's co-champion sprinter in 1978, died Tuesday in Ocala, Fla., and was buried at the Tartan Farms cemetery at Winding Oaks Farm, a Winding Oaks official said Wednesday. Dr. Patches was 28 and was euthanized because of the infirmities of old age.

A gelded son of Dr. Fager, Dr. Patches was the last remaining resident of the old Tartan Farms property, which now covers just 100 acres in Ocala. Most of the original Tartan property eventually was sold to Harry Mangurian's Mockingbird Farm. Eugene Melnyk bought the 1,100-acre Mockingbird land earlier this year and renamed it Winding Oaks.

A Tartan homebred, Dr. Patches won 17 of 47 starts and earned $737,612 in purses. In his championship season, he won the Grade 2 Vosburgh Handicap, the Meadowlands Cup, and the Paterson Handicap. He set a track record in the Meadowlands Cup, covering the 1 1/4 miles in 2:01.60. But his victory in the 1 1/8-mile Paterson was the pinnacle of Dr. Patches's career, a neck win over 1977 Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew. Dr. Patches was one of only three horses to beat Seattle Slew; the others were J. O. Tobin and Exceller.

Retired in his sixth season at the track in 1982, Dr. Patches left the races with a career race record of 47-17-14-3 that included his three stakes wins and seconds or thirds in 10 other stakes races.

During his career, Dr. Patches was trained by John Nerud, Wayne Lukas, and Nerud's son, Jan.

Dr. Patches was a son of the Intentionally mare Expectancy, making him a half-brother to Grade 1 stakes-winner Who's for Dinner and Grade 3 winner Imminence.