01/08/2002 1:00AM

Keeneland names racing secretary

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For the first time in nearly 30 years, Keeneland Race Course has a new racing secretary. Ben Huffman, 33, was named Tuesday to replace Howard Battle as racing secretary at the Lexington, Ky., racetrack.

Huffman, the son of and a former assistant to trainer William "Blackie" Huffman, had served since 1994 as Battle's assistant. He also is currently employed as a racing official at Kentucky's three other major tracks and previously has worked at Saratoga and Belmont.

Rogers Beasley, Keeneland's director of racing, said Tuesday that tracks officials are confident Huffman will "maintain and improve on the outstanding racing programs presented at Keeneland during Howard Battle's tenure." In recent years, per-day purses at Keeneland have averaged over $600,000, the most in North America.

Battle, the racing secretary since 1973, underwent surgery last year for stomach cancer. Although Battle was active during the spring and fall meets, Huffman assumed some of his duties when Battle was unable to work. Battle, 71, will remain at Keeneland as stakes director. Allison DeLuca moves up to fill Huffman's former position as assistant, while Dan Bork succeeds DeLuca as stakes coordinator.