11/14/2001 1:00AM

Gulfstream hurdling big obstacles


NEW YORK - The most challenging job on the racetrack today is that of the racing secretary, who is charged with putting on the show. He usually works in the face of keen competition from tracks in neighboring states. He must also deal with competition from other forms of legalized wagering, and he must operate with a horse inventory that seems to grow increasingly fragile.

The racing secretary with the most demanding job may be Dave Bailey at Gulfstream Park. Last winter, 5.6 percent of all horses who raced at Gulfstream were stabled at Hialeah. This winter, and probably in the future as well, Hialeah stabling will not be available. We're talking about 1,200 or more horses, a substantial group.

Gulfstream is moving to deal with the situation by construction of a major training center in Boynton Beach, some 50 miles north of the track. It is estimated that 800 stalls will be available for the 2003 race meeting, and that should be decidedly beneficial. But how do you deal with the outlook for this winter?

"Last season at Gulfstream we averaged 8.7 horses a race and 63 races a week," Bailey said the other day. "We hope to maintain a figure close to that average. We reviewed our stall allocations with extra care this time, with the emphasis on stables who are active. We also allocated some stalls to stables new to the area, or who haven't raced here for a while. We have also made arrangements to take in some of the Calder stables forced to vacate their barns when the 2-year-olds arrive for the annual winter sales."

The situation is compounded by the fact that Gulfstream's meeting will be longer than usual, extending through most of April, covering dates previously run at Hialeah. Many stables usually head north at that time. To ease the pressure, Gulfstream will switch from one dark day per week to two dark days after the running of the Florida Derby on March 16.

"We've also added the $250,000 Aventura for 3-year-olds on April 7 to the program to take the place of the Flamingo," Bailey said, "and to give those stables with late-developing colts a chance to get ready for the classics. Our April racing will also feature 2-year-olds who are beginning to come into their own about that time.

"We will do all we can to have the same strong racing program this winter that Gulfstream has always had."

Eddie Maple reflects on brother Sam

Eddie Maple reflected on the passing of his brother Sam, dead of cancer at 48.

"We were four boys and four girls," he recalled. "We lived in Carrollton, Ohio, not far from Canton, where they have the pro football Hall of Fame. I started riding when I was 17 in 1965.

"Sam came up to Cleveland to see what it was all about. He stayed with me a couple of days and seemed to like it. He began riding in 1969 for Jim Chapman and he did very well. Bobby Frankel bought his contract and Sam began riding in New York and New Jersey."

After a spill at Aqueduct, Sam Maple returned to New Jersey with trainer Paul Kelley, who worked for Bruce Norris, owner of the Detroit Red Wings.

"Sam was off to the races," Maple said. "I was committed to Lucy's Axe for the 3-year-old stakes so Woody Stephens put Sam on Smarten, and had a great season, riding to victory in four derbys. Sam was strong. He was bigger than me and very powerful. He was a smart rider, too. He rode the winners of a lot of big stakes. He had to fight the weight, though, and it wasn't easy."

Sam Maple was an outdoors guy who loved to fish, and he lost some quality time in 1989 when surgeons at Stanford University Hospital in California removed a brain tumor.

"He went back to riding," Eddie Maple said, "but eventually he had to give it up when the cancer returned. Sam was a caring person. Even in the last few years he reached out to help people who were in trouble. We were close and I am going to miss him."