10/18/2002 12:00AM

Eddie D., Cupless in California


ARCADIA, Calif. - It's sad enough that next Saturday will bring a Breeders' Cup without Chris McCarron. But Eddie Delahoussaye, too?

McCarron and Delahoussaye were both front row center for the first Breeders' Cup at Hollywood Park in 1984. They both rode six of the seven races that day, and Delahoussaye rang the bell with Princess Rooney in the Distaff.

They are not alone. The list of top riders from that first Cup who have long-departed the scene includes Bill Shoemaker, Sandy Hawley, Yves Saint-Martin, Angel Cordero, Fernando Toro, Eddie Maple, and Jeff Fell.

By the time he hung up his white pants last June, McCarron was a Hall of Famer who had won nine Breeders' Cup events - five of those in the Classic - while riding 101 Breeders' Cup races. Only Pat Day has been given as many Breeders' Cup mounts.

Delahoussaye's impact has been nearly as significant. His Hall of Fame stats include seven Breeders' Cup victories (only five guys have more) and ranks sixth on the all-time list of money winners.

But while McCarron's retirement was voluntary, being sound of mind and body when he made the decision, Delahoussaye would just as soon be suited up at Arlington Park next Saturday than staying at home in California, tending to his injured neck.

It has been seven weeks since Delahoussaye crashed to the Del Mar turf course when the horse he was riding, Seeingisbelieving, broke down. The date was Aug. 30. Whether or not it becomes Delahoussaye's last day in the saddle remains to be seen.

By Delahoussaye's count, the fall resulted in his fifth concussion. His injured neck and back require daily physical therapy. His doctor wants to wait another two months at least before evaluating his condition and making a decision about a return to competition.

"I want to go back to riding," Delahoussaye said. "It would be great to come back and win a Derby, or a Breeders' Cup. But, look, I'm not stupid. If they advise me not to, that's it. I'm going to do what's right for me."

At the age of 51, Delahoussaye has nothing left to prove. His 34-year career is complete from all possible angles, while his Breeders' Cup record features some real gems.

Princess Rooney won her Distaff by seven lengths, which stood as the largest margin for 11 years. Prized was making his first start on grass when he and Eddie D. won the 1989 Turf. And in 1993, while riding Hollywood Wildcat in the Distaff, Delahoussaye blew his whip deep in the stretch and proceeded to slap and scream his way to a nose victory over McCarron and Paseana.

If he felt like it, Delahoussaye would be celebrating the 10th anniversary of his absolute best Breeder's Cup, which occurred on Oct. 31, 1992, at balmy Gulfstream Park. With victories that day in the Sprint aboard Thirty Slews and the Classic with A.P. Indy, the memories still should be vivid.

"Um, A.P. Indy?" Delahoussaye mumbled. "I guess hit my head so bad I don't remember nothing."

Okay, so he hasn't lost his sense of humor. If he really needed it, Delahoussaye could get plenty of help recalling A.P. Indy, a son of Seattle Slew. Few horses have won the Classic with such authority.

"The only thing I was concerned about was the last three-eighths of a mile," Delahoussaye said. "I was in tight, and I didn't know if he'd go through there. But once he did, it was all over with. I don't think I even uncocked my stick. Well, maybe I tapped him on the shoulder."

Delahoussaye was awarded a Rolex watch as the outstanding jockey of the 1992 Breeders' Cup. Is it still ticking?

"Yeah," Delahoussaye replied, "but if I don't go back to work, I might have to hock it, and a few other things."

So why doesn't Delahoussaye go the way of most injured Hall of Famers and lobby for some face time as a television commentator?

"I don't have enough of a vocabulary," Delahoussaye said.

"There's no reason to make a fool of myself. Besides, I don't think they couldn't pay me enough."

A healthy Delahoussaye would probably have been back aboard the 3-year-old Perfect Drift in this year's version of the Classic. He rode Perfect Drift to victory earlier this year in the Spiral Stakes and then finished third in the Kentucky Derby.

"I'll be rooting for him," Delahoussaye said. "I always stick with my horses."

Twist on a twist

There is a twist to a recent piece published in this space that bears reporting. Three years ago, when California racetracks were given more control over selecting the groups that benefited from charity racing days, Bay Meadows led the way with 100 percent of their funds going to racing causes, according to track president Jack Liebau.

"Then the trust that had formerly controlled the charity funds sued us," Liebau explained. "We ultimately decided that fighting the suit would be too expensive. But the laws have changed now so that at least about 50 percent of those

charity funds do go to racing-related groups."