12/26/2003 12:00AM

Flint stable playing out a familiar scenario


FLORENCE, Ky. - Trainer Bernie Flint is operating with his same large numbers this winter as in the past, and with the same strategy.

The results have also been similar to past Turfway meets. Flint is winning at rate of better than 23 percent at Turfway Park, and heading into the final days of the holiday meet, which concludes Dec. 31, he leads Dale Romans in the trainer standings.

Entering Friday's card, Flint had won nine races, two more than Romans, the leading trainer at Churchill Downs in the fall. Flint has raced a meet-high 38 starters, 14 more than any other trainer running horses at Turfway.

"We've had luck there for many years," said Flint, who set a record for wins during a winter-spring meet at Turfway when he won 44 races in early 2003. "Hopefully it will continue."

His horses have excelled in recent weeks in part because of the departures of other leading stables that have gone south for the winter. At this time of year, horses here face less competition than in the fall, when some must race at Mountaineer Park to win races.

"The one's we've got are developing well," Flint said. "And it's a little easier to get the win. That helps out."

Rewarding claims at Churchill Downs have also contributed to his successful meet. One such claim was Ask the Lord, who has won two straight for Flint since he claimed the horse for $62,500 for himself and co-owner R. A. Williams at Churchill Downs Oct. 26. Those victories included an optional $80,000 claimer at Churchill Downs, and the $50,000 Prairie Bayou at Turfway on Dec. 13. His earnings since joining the Flint stable have amounted to more than $64,000.

"There's a trick to that little horse," he said. "I think I found it."

Sunday, Flint will start a pair of horses at Turfway - Betwineyouanme, one of the favorites in the seventh race, a $13,500 claimer, and Stoneway, a 2-year-old filly in the ninth race, an entry-level allowance at 6 1/2 furlongs.

Stoneway - named after her owners, Stoneway Farm - makes her second start this meet after returning from a 3 1/2-month layoff. In her mid-December comeback, she sped to the lead under jockey Rafael Bejarano, and seemed on her way to victory when she opened up a two-length margin on the field in midstretch. She faded to third late, however, covering the final eighth of that six-furlong race in over 14 seconds.

"We've had limited training here this winter," said the Churchill Downs-based Flint. "That had to cost her. Maybe we didn't get her tight enough."

Rodney Prescott gets the mount on Stoneway, who will face 10 opponents, led by recent maiden winner Cat's Account and Hawthorne invader Piano Tunner.

Prescott and other jockeys are beginning to see more opportunities in recent days. With leading rider Bejarano on vacation in his native Peru, many mounts that would have gone to him have been divided among the riders chasing him in the standings. Bejarano will resume riding at Turfway Jan. 2, agent Steve Elzey said.

I Will Survive heads feature

Sunday's featured eighth race, a two-other-than allowance for older fillies and mares, offers a fairly typical winter field. Five of the seven starters have raced for a claiming price of $17,500 or less in 2003.

The likely favorite is I Will Survive, who finished third against $45,000 claimers Dec. 10 when returning from a short layoff. Tammy Fox rides.

Romans, who led the Turfway standings for much of the meet before being overtaken by Flint last week, trains I Will Survive.

"We're coming to our end," said Romans, who was 7 for 23 heading into Friday's card. "Most of ours will go to Gulfstream now."

Romans said he plans to have 35 to 40 horses in Florida for the winter, and keep 15 to 20 in Kentucky to run at Turfway during the winter-spring meet.

* Sir Cherokee recorded his first published workout since winning an optional claiming race at Churchill Downs on Nov. 27, breezing five furlongs Tuesday in 1:02.20 over a sloppy track at Churchill Downs Trackside. His Nov. 27 race was his first race since he fractured his leg two days before he was scheduled to run in the May 3 Kentucky Derby.

* Turfway will have a 1:10 p.m. post time until Jan. 1. The track will also race on Monday and Tuesday, days that are traditionally dark.