10/24/2002 11:00PM

Fit to be tied (or better)


Truth be told, Dale Romans would gladly accept a tie every meet. Romans brings a remarkable recent record into the 30-day fall meet that begins Sunday at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky.

Although he has never been leading trainer at Churchill in the fall, Romans has tied for the title at each of the last three spring meets.

"Sure I'd take another tie, especially in the fall," said Romans, 36. "I want to run at least a couple every day. I've got a few horses that are fresh, so we should have a good month."

Romans said he "has horses for all different categories. Last fall we didn't do that well because I had such a big October, and it kind of made us weak for November. But we're sitting on some live horses right now, and hopefully we'll come out running."

At the 2000 spring meet, Romans and D. Wayne Lukas ended up in a tie. In 2001, the tie was with Bernie Flint. Last spring, it was with Tom Amoss.

The leading trainer last fall was Steve Asmussen, who knocked out maiden and/or allowance conditions with such top horses as Lake Lady, Easyfromthegitgo, Stormy Forever, and others.

This fall, said Asmussen, "we're a little lighter than I had planned, but if things fall our way, we'll be pretty competitive. We've got 36 horses over there and spots that suit them. I figure we'll get 50 to 60 starts."

Potential challengers to Romans and Asmussen include Lukas, Amoss, Flint, Dallas Stewart, Paul McGee, and Elliott Walden.

Bredar has more up his sleeve

This is the first fall meet for Doug Bredar, who assumed the duties of racing secretary in March following the Jan. 1 death of the longtime secretary, Jerry Botts. Bredar's first meet was in the spring, when he made subtle changes in the condition book, most notably carding more turf sprints and optional-claiming races.

For the fall, Bredar has more changes in store. He hopes to use the turf course more than in the past, although Kentucky weather may put a crimp in those plans.

"We'll average about two a day, unless of course the weather won't let us," he said. "We've got a lot of grass horses right now, so this is the first fall when maidens will run on the grass, both 2-year-olds and older. We'll also have a limited number of number of turf sprints."

Bredar said his goal is to average nine horses per race, "a good, solid number." Racing industry analysts long have noted that larger fields correlate to increased business, and the Churchill fall meet perennially draws big fields.

"We're very excited about the quality of this meet," said Bredar. "The stakes program should be strong as always, and with Arlington having the Breeders' Cup, we should be able to get some residual effect from there."

Changes in pick six

Unlike in recent meets, Churchill is reverting to a $2 minimum on the pick six while also moving it from its customary spot. The pick six now will be held on the last six races each day. It formerly was offered on races 3 through 8.

The raising of the minimum to $2 is an attempt to have more carryover jackpots. A $1 minimum makes the bet easier to hit and thereby leads to fewer carryovers.

First-timers hit track

At least a few trainers and jockeys will be competing at Churchill for the first time this meet.

John McKee, the 21-year-old apprentice who won riding titles at River Downs and Turfway Park in recent months, is among the newcomers. McKee has quite a bit of business lined up, and it would not be a surprise if he finished in the top five in the jockey standings.

Jason Lumpkins, a veteran rider on several circuits, most recently in northern California, is moving to Kentucky, where he recently bought a 165-acre farm. Lumpkins plans to begin riding here in mid-November.

David Forster, a perennial leading trainer in Washington state, has a sizable string at Trackside in the care of his son and assistant, Grant. Forster won an allowance race at Keeneland opening weekend.

Zito doll leads promotions

Two-time Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Nick Zito is the latest subject for a bobblehead doll.

Bobblehead replicas of Zito will be given away here Nov. 23 to the first 10,000 customers. All-time leading rider Pat Day is the only person previously honored with a bobblehead giveaway at Churchill.

Zito, who won the Derby in 1991 with Strike the Gold and 1994 with Go for Gin, long has proclaimed Kentucky as his adopted home state.

Other promotions at the meet include a day to honor the Valley Sports team that won the Little League World Series last summer; a Rick Pitino day; the annual chili cook-off; and calendar, T-shirt, and camera giveaways.

The weekly handicapping contest, with berths to the National Handicapping Championship on the line, is scheduled for every Wednesday.