09/08/2003 11:00PM

More than just a good horseman

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MIAMI - The mood was a bit more somber than usual during training hours here on Tuesday after word had spread that trainer Harold Rose had died the previous afternoon.

At 92, Rose was the elder statesman of the Calder backstretch and a fixture here since the track opened in 1971. He was also one of the most successful owner-breeders in the area, having campaigned such talented homebreds as My G.P., Rexson's Hope, Mia's Hope, and Hal's Hope.

But as his longtime friend and colleague Bill Kaplan explained, Rose was more than just a good horseman.

"He was a sweetheart of a man," said Kaplan, who has been stabled in the same barn with Rose for nearly 15 years. "He didn't have an enemy anywhere. He also had a passion for training horses.

"He was always the first one on the grounds every morning," Kaplan said. "He'd arrive at 3:30 a.m. and walk the shed row checking feed tubs and giving his horses oatmeal cookies. And when he'd stand out on the rail watching his horses train in the morning, everyone would come by to talk with him.

"He was great for racing and will be missed by everybody back here."

Rose first earned local notoriety when My G.P. and Rexson's Hope won split divisions of the 1983 In Reality Stakes, the final leg of the Florida Stallion Stakes. In 1984, Rexson's Hope took Rose to his first Kentucky Derby, where the colt finished 10th.

But it was Hal's Hope who made Rose the darling of the national media on the road to the 2000 Derby, a trip that began with Hal's Hope's upset victory in the Grade 1 Florida Derby.

"I'll never forget how the crowd at Gulfstream gave what seemed like a 10-minute standing ovation when Harold led Hal's Hope into the winner's circle after he won the Florida Derby - an ovation that wasn't for the horse, but for Harold," Kaplan said. "And I was at Churchill Downs during Derby Week later that spring and watched as hordes of media came by his barn every day for interviews. And as tired as Harold might have been, he would sit in his chair outside his barn every morning and talk to every last reporter who came by to see him."

Kaplan believed it was Rose's easygoing nature as well as his passion for his horses that kept him going so long.

"He never raised his voice to anyone, never said a word in anger, and never really got excited," said Kaplan. "I once asked him what was the secret to long life. He simply said, 'Just have fun and be satisfied with your lot in life.' "

'Say the Word' faces R. Associate

A pair of promising 3-year-olds, Just Say the Word and R. Associate, are among the six starters in Thursday's $30,000 allowance feature.

Just Say the Word is coming off a third-place finish behind multiple stakes winners The Name's Bond and Lawbook in the Always Silver Stakes. R. Associate, who showed promise before finishing sixth in the 2002 What a Pleasure Stakes, returned from an eight-month layoff and overcame a slow start to win his 3-year-old debut for new trainer Manny Tortora.

Just Say the Word and R. Associate are two of four 3-year-olds in the starting lineup Thursday, along with Book of the Year and Ivan's Song. Veterans Chow Down and Pattons Charge complete the field.

Chispiski loses in upset

Chispiski, a three-time stakes winner here last season, appeared back in peak form after winning the Kimscountrydiamond Stakes on Aug. 3. But her comeback was slowed just a bit on Monday when she was caught in late stretch by 10-1 outsider Honeymooner in the seven-furlong Going Up Stakes. The win was the second in succession for Honeymooner, who is trained by Newcomb Green and was ridden to victory by Rosemary Homeister Jr.

Chispiski and Honeymooner are likely to meet again in the $75,000 U Can Do It Handicap on Oct. 4.

- Apprentice Miguel Mena joined the local riding colony last week and posted his first U.S. victory, which came aboard Elian for trainer George Heath, on Sunday. Mena, 16, came to this country from his native Peru, where he was the leading apprentice rider, according to his agent, Ruben Munoz.