06/12/2002 12:00AM

Long day for bettors and jockeys at Lincoln


LINCOLN, Neb. - A crowd of 2,426 turned out for Saturday's Belmont Stakes program, an increase of 450 over last year, and they got a bit more than they bargained for. Several delays throughout the day added more than an hour to Saturday's nine-race program.

Following a short delay after a disqualification in the first race, the second race on the card was further delayed when jockey Newil Wall was seriously injured by a fractious horse in the starting gate. Wall, aboard Tiger's Empire, suffered multiple fractures to his lower leg when the horse flipped and pinned him against the tailgate. Wall underwent surgery later in the day to have several pins and a plate put into his leg. The delay resulted in the second race going off at 2:54 p.m., approximately 27 minutes after its scheduled post time.

The card proceeded normally through the break for the Belmont Stakes and the following race, but as the field was being loaded for the eighth race, the gate was accidentally opened as the final horse, Candis Gold Dancer, was walking up to the back of the stall. An alert assistant starter did a good job of holding the horse behind the gate as the field raced away. Armando Martinez, aboard Our Dance, was not so lucky.

Breaking from post 3, Our Dance went straight into the air and pinned Martinez to the back of the stall as the field left. Following another lengthy delay, Candis Gold Dancer and Our Dance were declared non-starters and all wagers were refunded. Martinez was taken off his remaining mount that afternoon but returned to ride the next day.

* Dennis Collins was able to avoid serious injury on Thursday night when he was unseated at the start of the sixth race and was clipped by another horse.

Collins was taken to Lincoln General Hospital to be checked out, but was cleared to ride again by Saturday afternoon and promptly won three races.

* On Friday night Alex Granda booted home five winners on the eight-race card as he made a big move into third in the rider standings with 20 wins. Jerry Carkeek continues to lead the way with a 32-25 edge over Martinez.

* The warm, dry weather over the weekend accounted for fast times on the racetrack, topped by Mr Clearwater's track-record-equalling performance on Sunday. Mr Clearwater won an allowance race by a head in 50 seconds for the 4 1/2 furlongs. The time equaled Leaping Plum's 7-year-old track record, registered in the 1995 Speed Handicap.