10/07/2002 12:00AM

Literary hero now a bobble doll


SAN MATEO, Calif. - Bay Meadows didn't make a blip on the San Francisco Bay Area sports radar screen last Sunday.

There were two baseball playoff series being contested in the Bay Area - the Oakland A's losing a fifth and final game to the Minnesota Twins and the San Francisco Giants winning and forcing a deciding fifth game against the Atlanta Braves. In the National Football League, the San Francisco 49ers were playing host to the St. Louis Rams.

Bay Meadows figures more prominently Saturday, when it joins the bobble-head doll promotional frenzy, with a twist.

Fans won't be getting a bobble-head of Hall of Fame jockey Russell Baze or even trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, who is equally dominant on the northern California circuit. Instead the bobble-head promotion features the legendary Seabiscuit, back-to-back winner of the Bay Meadows Handicap in 1937 and 1938.

The Hall of Fame horse was the subject of Laura Hillenbrand's best-seller "Seabiscuit: An American Legend," which is being made into a movie.

It will be the first time a horse bobble-head has been offered in a promotion and has already attracted national attention. The National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., has requested a pair of the bobble-heads.

Apparently people are already planning to be at Bay Meadows to claim a bobble-head Saturday. The bobble-heads are already appearing on eBay with a delivery date of Sunday. As of Monday the high bid was $59.

Bay Meadows plans to distribute 8,500 bobble-heads.

A track spokesperson said the bobble-heads have already arrived and will not be held up by the current West Coast ports shutdown.

Added safety measures

On Sept. 21, jockey Francisco Duran fell after his mount, Cappucino Kid, stumbled leaving the gate in a turf race. As the remainder of the field headed to the first turn, the gate crew rushed to help an immobile Duran.

He was lifted by crew members and carried to the outer rail. Duran was fine and returned to win the next race, but the incident scared some observers.

Track physician Dr. David Seftel, and Richard Lewis, coordinator of racing operations, met after the spill to discuss safety issues, and this week the track is ordering a "split board," which will be attached to the starting gate.

A split board is a backboard that splits in two. It allows members of the gate crew to slide half the board under the side of a fallen rider and the other half under the other side. The split board is then snapped together and the jockey lifted safely.

* Don't be late if you plan to see Wednesday's feature race. The one-mile $50,000 optional claiming race, which features stakes stars Boss Ego and Prodigious, goes as the first race on the card.