12/12/2002 12:00AM

Keep your eye on bouncing ball


HONG KONG - Draws for post positions are usually held in a racing secretary's office. A numbered pill is selected, along with an entry card for each horse, and in a few minutes, an entire card is drawn. This process is witnessed by a few people from the racing office, jockey agents clamoring for last-second mounts, and the occasional visitor who took a wrong turn looking for the bathroom. It is not high drama. Nor should it be.

But post-position draws for major races have become elaborate productions. Some are even quite tasteful. At the Japan Cup one year, a representative from each horse selected a folded paper fan, then opened it, revealing the horse's post. On a hot day, the fan was practical, too.

At the opposite end of the spectrum are the made-for-television spectacles of the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, where a convoluted, two-step process first determines the order of selection, after which a representative from each horse picks a post.

The Hong Kong Jockey Club tries something new each year for its four International Races. A year ago, a representative for each horse opened fortune cookies that revealed the horses' posts.

This year, posts for Sunday's four Hong Kong International Races were determined on stage in a large auditorium with a game-show format that left some horses' connections rolling their eyes: When a jockey club representative pressed a big red button, a light on a giant video screen bounced along the names of the runners, finally settling on one. Then that horse's owner or trainer pressed a big white button, and a light bounced along a mock starting gate until it landed on a stall.

This went on for every runner in every race while two moderators played host, one speaking in English, the other in Mandarin. Too bad Reba's Gold isn't running here, or his owner, Alex Trebek, could have assisted.

When it was over, the jockey club officials, and all connections, stood on the stage with cylinders of confetti. On the count of three, they pulled the triggers, and out popped the confetti.

Then, it was time to leave. Quickly.

"I kept waiting for them to say what was behind door number three," said Jenine Sahadi, the trainer of Delta Form, who runs in the Hong Kong Vase.

"I kept waiting for Richard Dawson to come up and give me a peck on the cheek," said Michael McCarthy, an assistant to trainer Todd Pletcher, who is here with Texas Glitter for the Hong Kong Sprint.

Prado looks back

With a riding title at Saratoga and his first classic victory aboard Sarava in the Belmont Stakes, this has been a great year for jockey Edgar Prado. He seeks a victory here on Sunday with Texas Glitter in the Hong Kong Sprint, and he paused Thursday to reflect on his season.

"It was a little disappointing in the Breeders' Cup," he said, referring to the fatal breakdown by his mount, Landseer, in the Mile. "Watching the replay, I don't know how he stayed up."

Prado said one of his biggest thrills this year came in early October at Keeneland, when he won major stakes on the same weekend with Landseer, Sky Mesa, and Take Charge Lady. "That was a good, good week," he said.

Saratoga is where Prado shined the brightest and longest, winning the six-week meet while being able to miss the final day to ride Harlan's Holiday to victory in the Pennsylvania Derby.

"At the beginning of the meet, it was slow, but I kept on trying and working, and it turned around," he said.

Prado brought his son, Edgar Jr., with him to the International Races. His son, a bright, articulate 16-year-old, wanted to see Hong Kong, even though he knew he could not watch his father ride in the races. You have to be 18 to attend the races here. Edgar Jr. had to keep up with his homework this week by faxing it back to his home in Florida.

Wonderful Copenhagen

Dano-Mast, who runs in the Hong Kong Cup, is the best horse to come out of Denmark, which has but 500 horses in training and a foal crop this year of 120. He earned his ticket to Hong Kong by beating Group 2 company in the Prix Dollar at Longchamp. "This is like a fairytale," said Flemming Poulsen, who trains Dano-Mast. "I have never had a horse travel outside Europe, it is the first time I have shipped a horse, and he is the first Danish horse to race in Hong Kong."

* Jockey Frankie Dettori, who has mounts in all four International Races, is hoping to celebrate his birthday in style. He turns 32 on Sunday.