11/18/2004 1:00AM

Meche's request comes too late


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Donnie Meche, who returned from a one-year suspension in July, was at Churchill Downs on Wednesday to see whether he could obtain a Kentucky jockey license. The initial answer from chief steward Mickey Sample was "no," although Meche, if he wishes, could submit to an interview with the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority's five-person licensing committee to determine his eligibility.

The problem, said Sample, is that the committee would not be able to meet with Meche until next week, which renders the issue moot for the purpose of riding at the Churchill meet, which ends next Saturday. Racing on the Kentucky circuit moves to Turfway Park on Nov. 28, but Meche will already be riding at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans, which starts its four-month meet Thursday.

Meche most recently had been riding at Louisiana Downs, where the summer-fall meet is over, and he wanted to ride here for a week or so, especially since there is ample opportunity for a veteran in the aftermath of Churchill's ban of 14 jockeys after they declined to ride Nov. 10-11. Meche is now being represented by agent Fred Aime, who also is working for apprentice Brian Hernandez Jr. Aime will have both jockeys at the Fair Grounds.

Meche returned to action in mid-July after serving a one-year suspension stemming from a Jan. 2003 trial race at Delta Downs, where the stewards and, later, the Louisiana State Racing Commission, ruled that Meche had not persevered to win. Since his return, Meche has won with 45 of 319 starters while riding primarily in Louisiana.

In another licensing matter, Sample said Ramsey Zimmerman, who until recently had been riding under a restricted Illinois license because of problems with substance abuse, has been cleared to ride in Kentucky and will be licensed shortly. Zimmerman is expected to be a major factor at the upcoming four-month meet at Turfway, where Steve Elzey will be his agent.

Hernandez nearly sets record

No rider has been hotter, or more in demand, in recent days than Brian Hernandez, who nearly set what is believed would have been a Churchill record for apprentices here Wednesday.

Hernandez, 19, won the second race with Stage Glitter ($7), the third with Aunt Connie ($3.60), the sixth with Televangelist ($5), and the featured ninth with Victoire Bataille ($6.40). Then, in the 10th and last race, he barely missed a fifth when his mount, Adriad's Cape, gave up the lead in deep stretch to lose by a head.

Although Churchill officials do not have records back to the mid-1970's, when Steve Cauthen was an apprentice, it is believed that Hernandez tied the mark for most wins in a day by an apprentice. The latest of those record-holders, John McKee, rode four winners on the final day of the 2002 fall meet.

Hernandez also swept the early daily double Thursday with Markofexcess and Kristina's Wish, both trained by Steve Asmussen.

Turf makes Angela's Love a question

If the Cardinal Handicap were run on dirt (and once upon a time it was, from 1974 to 1986), Angela's Love would be considered one of the favorites. But the Cardinal is on turf, a surface over which Angela's Love has never raced, so she can only be considered a fringe contender, if not an outright curiosity.

"She's not eligible for much anything else, and she's doing good," said trainer Dale Romans. "She's worked good on turf twice, and she has a good Tomlinson number for the turf. We just thought we'd take a shot."

Angela's Love has won three races and just over $200,000 this year, with her victory in the Grade 3 Gardenia at Ellis Park the highlight.

Tricky Devil rolls in allowance

It wasn't worthy of another Beyer Speed Figure of 113, but the performance turned in Wednesday by Tricky Devil was easily enough to get him through his first allowance condition. Ridden by Eddie Martin Jr., Tricky Devil, a 3-year-old gelding, led most of the way to win the eighth race, a $49,400 allowance at 6 1/2 furlongs.

Tricky Devil, the 3-5 favorite, earned a Beyer Figure of 89 in the two-length victory. It was his first start since he got a 113 Beyer beating $40,000 maiden-claiming company at Keeneland on the first race of the meet Oct. 8.

Saint Liam probable for Clark

Saint Liam, initially omitted from the nominations to the Nov. 26 Clark Handicap, has been added to that list and is "probable" to start in the $500,000 race, trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. said Thursday.

Saint Liam would face Perfect Drift, Colonial Colony, and as many as eight or nine more rivals in the Clark.

A weekend of promos

Churchill has several promotions going this weekend. Saturday, fans can get a free pass from a local Thornton's or Fifth Third Bank, and Churchill will give $5.30 to the Metro United Way for each redeemed pass. Also, the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association is having another scholarship raffle day on Saturday, with 10 college scholarships being given away throughout the day.

Sunday, a 2005 souvenir calendar will be given away with the first 5,000 admissions.