10/30/2002 12:00AM

Gate scratch policy in question


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - When part of a two-horse entry is a late scratch, horseplayers sometimes find themselves holding a losing ticket on a horse they might not have wanted to bet on.

For many, that is what transpired Tuesday in the third race at Churchill Downs, when Annual Dues, probably the better half of a Dale Romans-trained entry, was scratched at the gate after injuring herself. The remaining half of the entry, Chap Up, proceeded to finish last in a field of six as the 9-10 favorite.

Primarily at issue is whether the entire field, which already had been loaded, should have been backed out for several minutes to allow time for bettors to obtain refunds on the Romans entry, if so desired. Instead, the Churchill stewards allowed the race to start less than a minute after the announcement of the scratch.

"The timing of this particular incident was problematic, because you have to ask, 'Isn't it a disservice to the other horses to back them out after they've already been loaded?' " said chief steward Bernie Hettel, who also serves as executive director of the Kentucky Racing Commission.

"In some states, namely New York, there is a rule that says the remaining half of the entry automatically is scratched for wagering purposes and will run for purse money only," Hettel said. "Maybe we should revise our regulations to cover ourselves in such situations, but you also have to take into account that there are times when the weaker half of the entry will be scratched, and that would be a disservice for people who wanted to bet on the better horse. They might have been here all day just to bet on that one horse.

"If a horse is scratched in the post parade and we have the opportunity to give the customers an extra few minutes to adjust, then we'll usually do that. But when the horses are already in the gate, ready to run, their blood pressure rising, that makes it a problem. Personally, I'd prefer to have a new regulation like New York, where the remaining half runs for purse only, but obviously there are some negatives to that, too. There are some good answers to the situation, but clearly no perfect answers."

Hettel said he and fellow stewards Rick Leigh and Jack Middleton realized some patrons might have been unhappy with having very little time to get a refund Tuesday after Annual Dues was scratched, but that they made a discretionary decision. "I know some people think that sometimes our heads are in the cosmos, but yes, we were very cognizant of the situation," he said.

Lady Tak may be future star for Asmussen

Trainer Steve Asmussen unveiled a potential star here Tuesday when Lady Tak, a 2-year-old filly sired by Mutakddim, won her career debut by 11 3/4 lengths.

Owned by Heiligbrodt Racing, Lady Tak finished six furlongs in 1:12.07 over a sloppy track. By contrast, Demopolis, also trained by Asmussen, won two races later against 2-year-old maiden colts and geldings, completing the same distance in 1:13.22.

Asmussen said he is "very excited" about Lady Tak but is not necessarily willing to push her immediately into stakes company.

Posse has been a star for Asmussen

Heiligbrodt and Asmussen figure to be major players Sunday when Posse makes his first start in over three months in the Iroquois Stakes, one of two juvenile stakes here this weekend.

Posse has not raced since finishing fourth behind Whywhywhy in the July 25 Sanford at Saratoga. The colt's easy win in the Kentucky Breeders' Cup here in May made him an early leader in the 2-year-old division.

The Grade 3 Iroquois is shaping up as an excellent race. Other probable starters are: Alke, Boston Park, Champali, Country Judge, Larry B, Mr. Whitestone, Private Gold, Tito's Beau, and What a Bad Day.

The filly counterpart to the Iroquois, the Pocahontas, will be run Saturday with what is expected to be a shorter field. Two-year-old fillies likely for the Pocahontas are Belle of Perintown, Holiday Lady, Miss Listo, My Trusty Cat, Souris, Star of Atticus, and Youcan'ttakeme.

Both the Pocahontas and Iroquois are one-mile races with $100,000 purses

Misprinted souvenir glasses

Burgoo King did not win the Triple Crown in 1932, and War Admiral did win the Triple Crown in 1937 - despite what is inscribed on the first batch of 2003 Kentucky Derby souvenir mint-julep glasses.

More than 100,000 of the glasses were printed with that erroneous information, a development that actually has increased the market value of the glasses, which normally retail for about $2.50. The misprinted glasses have been selling for nearly $8 on the Internet auction site eBay in recent days.

Churchill officials said this week that they regret the error and that a new round of Derby glasses are being produced. There is precedent for error, as glitches were found on a limited number of glasses in 1974, 1982, and 1984.

Derby souvenir glasses long have been highly valued collectors' items, with rare editions selling for exorbitant amounts on eBay and elsewhere.

* It's been a rough last few days for United Tote, the totalizator software company that services tracks and wagering outlets throughout Kentucky.

On Saturday at Keeneland, the company had to refund some $76,000 in Breeders' Cup pick six wagers because of a communications error. And Tuesday at Churchill, the company was responsible for a snafu in which more than $10,000 in out-of-pocket losses were incurred because of an inadvertent refund of the first pick four of the card.

* Take Charge Lady, the 3-year-old filly who finished sixth as the 3-1 second choice in the Breeders' Cup Distaff last weekend, could run back in the Grade 2 Falls City Handicap on Nov. 28, trainer Ken McPeek said. Take Charge Lady "is fine" after having been diagnosed with a guttural pouch infection following the Distaff, said McPeek.

* Fifty Stars, the 2001 Louisiana Derby who finished ninth in the Kentucky Derby later that spring for Asmussen, is the big name in the Friday feature, a $48,400 allowance at a mile.

Fifty Stars drew the rail in a field of nine entered in the ninth of 10 races. First post is 12:40 p.m. Eastern.