11/08/2002 12:00AM

Insurance deal delayed once again


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Ongoing negotiations with an insurance company has pushed the potential launch date of a less expensive worker's compensation program for California trainers from Nov. 15 to Nov. 22 at the earliest, according to a top racing official.

The new policies will be administered by American International Group, and were first presented to trainers in September. There have been repeated delays in the last three months.

"We've been going back and forth with the legal documents," said Ed Halpern, executive director of the California Thoroughbred Trainers. "They've shown a willingness to make a whole bunch of changes we felt were necessary."

Since March, when the last private insurance company stopped writing worker's compensation policies, racing officials have sought a private insurance company to provide affordable insurance coverage for backstretch workers and jockeys. For most of the year, trainers have been forced to buy policies through the government-backed State Fund, which is required to offer policies but has done so at much higher rates than trainers have paid in recent years.

So far, AIG is the lone company to step forward to offer a plan, and is doing so after legislation allowed the racing industry to redirect monies that were dedicated to a marketing fund and a stabling and vanning fund to help launch the program.

One concern for trainers is an early termination penalty that State Fund may administer to trainers that cancel policies to join AIG. The issue remains unresolved.

Experiment aims to reduce scratches

The California Horse Racing Board has doubled the number of days - from five to 10 - a horse is excluded from being entered after being placed on the veterinarian's list. The action was taken in an effort to reduce the number of late scratches.

In a one-page memo distributed Oct. 31 to veterinarians, stewards, and CHRB investigators, Roy Wood, the CHRB executive director, said the plan is an experiment that will apply only to the Hollywood Park fall meeting, which began Wednesday and runs through Dec. 22.

"As you may know, this experiment is intended to reduce the number of program scratches to see if a longer period on the vet's list works as a deterrent," Wood wrote.

A late scratch is defined as a horse withdrawn after scratch time, which is 10 a.m. on the day preceding the race.

Hollywood Derby next for Century City

Century City, a Group 2 winner in Ireland who was third in the Bay Meadows Derby last weekend, will reappear in the $500,000 Hollywood Derby on Dec. 1, trainer Beau Greely said.

Greely will also start Like a Hero, who was fourth in the Travers Stakes, in a field that is expected to include Johar and Rock Opera, the first two finishers from the Oak Tree Derby at Santa Anita last month.

Lil Sister Stich targets Safely Kept

There are no graded stakes at Hollywood Park next weekend. Saturday, Puxa Saco, the winner of the Anoakia Stakes at Santa Anita last month, will attempt to win her second stakes in the $100,000 Moccasin Stakes for 2-year-old fillies over seven furlongs.

Next Sunday, Lil Sister Stich, the winner of the California Cup Distaff at Santa Anita on Nov. 2, may run in the $70,000 Safely Kept Handicap for fillies and mares over 5 1/2 furlongs on turf.

The nomination list of 22 includes Gabriellina Giof, the winner of the 2001 Manhattan Beach Handicap over the same course and distance.

Rochester may ship in for Turf Cup

Trainer Jonathan Sheppard is considering Rochester for the $250,000 Hollywood Turf Cup on Nov. 23, the first major stakes of the fall meeting.

The 6-year-old Rochester won the Kentucky Downs Turf and the Sycamore Breeders' Cup Stakes at Keeneland in late September and early October.

"He's kind of like a Grade 3 horse but we've never tried him in Grade 1 company," Sheppard said.

Sheppard said that With Anticipation, the runner-up in the Breeders' Cup Turf at Arlington Park on Oct. 26, has earned a winter vacation. "He came out of it well," he said. "He's done his job for us."

Delta Form, the winner of the Del Mar Handicap, is a probable for the Turf Cup.

* Julie Krone's win aboard Jade Vixen in Thursday's final race completed a sweep by favorites of the day's eight races. The highest winning mutuel of the day was Six Hitter ($6.40) in the sixth race. Even with a pick six carryover of more than $82,000, the $2 bet returned a paltry $230. Consolations with five winners paid $10.60.