08/20/2002 12:00AM

Multispecies dark-day hullabaloo

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - What should have been a quiet dark-day morning in Saratoga, turned chaotic Tuesday with people and dogs getting hurt, and the training of two horses preparing for Grade 1 races disrupted.

The chaos began about 8:45 a.m. when exercise rider Tim Wyatt was working a horse for his brother Todd on the main track. The 3-year-old gelding became spooked by his workmate, ducked in and hit the rail near the quarter pole, hurling Tim Wyatt into a ditch between the inside rail of the dirt course and the outside rail of the Mellon Turf Course.

Wyatt was knocked unconscious and lay motionless in the ditch for almost 30 minutes. He was removed from the track on a stretcher and taken to Saratoga Hospital for observation and released, according to Todd Wyatt. Both Wyatts also work for trainer Tom Voss.

"He's fine," Todd Wyatt said. "It might have looked worse than it was."

The accident forced the track to be closed for training for 30 minutes while paramedics attended to Wyatt and EMS vehicles were on the track.

At roughly the same time, near the Oklahoma training track, there was a commotion of a different sort.

A pit bull had gotten out of its owner's car and attacked a Jack Russell dog owned by Liz Gray, the assistant trainer for Dale Romans. While Gray and others were trying to separate the two dogs, Gray's dog bit her in the face and hand.

Gray was taken to Saratoga Hospital, treated and released with puncture wounds to her hand and face, according to Romans. Gray's dog was taken to a veterinary clinic with a puncture wound to a hind leg, but is expected to survive, Romans said.

"It could have been a whole lot worse," Romans said.

According to trainer Pat Reynolds, the same pit bull that attacked Gray's dog, attacked one of his dogs at Belmont Park earlier this year, nearly killing him.

The only reference to dogs in the NYRA rules is a sentence in the condition book that reads, "Untagged dogs will not be permitted on the grounds at all NYRA tracks."

NYRA president Terry Meyocks said NYRA has had banned troubled dogs in the past. "Over the years if there's been a problem with certain dogs we've asked to have them taken off the grounds," he said.

Puzzlement, Labamta Babe disrupted

A second incident on the main track wreaked havoc with Puzzlement's final work for Saturday's $1 million Travers.

Trainer Allen Jerkens was initially going to work Puzzlement early Tuesday morning. But overnight rains made the track wet and forced the track maintenance crew to seal the track. They also put up traffic cones, known as dogs, to protect the inside of the track, which were to be taken down following the renovation break. So, Jerkens opted to postpone the work until after the break.

The accident on the main track forced Puzzlement to walk for almost 30 minutes, before being allowed to train. When Puzzlement was finally on the track, he was in the middle of a seven-furlong workout when jockey Jean-Luc Samyn had to abruptly pull the horse up at the quarter pole.

There was a horse trained by Alfredo Callejas that had stopped and was wheeling at the rail by the quarter pole. Samyn had wanted to take Puzzlement outside that horse, but there was another horse there that had just been pulled up.

Jerkens said Puzzlement seemed to be okay despite being pulled up so suddenly. Jerkens said Puzzlement would not go to the track on Wednesday, but that the horse might do something Thursday or Friday.

"You always like for things to go right, but what are you going to do?" Jerkens said.

At the time of the accident on the main track, Bobby Frankel had brought four horses to breeze including Labamta Babe, who is making his return off a layoff in Saturday's $200,000 King's Bishop.

Frankel waited more than 20 minutes, before deciding to bring Labamta Babe back to the training track where he worked him five furlongs on turf. Labamta Babe was timed in 1:03.

"Do I know if it's right or wrong?" Frankel said. "I have no clue. It might be the best thing, I don't know. It's okay, he got his exercise in."

Handle on pace for North American record

Wagering on races from Saratoga is running ahead of last year's record pace, and track officials are crediting the decrease in takeout that took effect with opening day at the track last year.

All-sources handle on Saratoga is up $23.1 million through the first 23 days of the meet, or 5.6 percent, from $333.2 million through the same period in 2001 to $356.3 million in 2002. Average daily all-sources commingled handle on the signal has been $15.3 million, compared with $14.5 million in 2001.

Bill Nader, a NYRA vice president, said that the track is projecting that average all-sources handle will grow 6.4 percent to $16.6 million this year, which would break the North American record that Saratoga established last year at $15.6 million daily. The projection includes separate pool bets from Canada and other foreign countries, Nader said.

Last year, NYRA reduced the takeout on its win, place, and show wagers from 15 percent to 14 percent, the lowest in the country. Takeout on exactas and other two-horse wagers was reduced from 20 percent to 17.5 percent, and the takeout on pick six bets on non-carryover days was reduced from 25 percent to 20 percent.

NYRA officials have said that the new takeout structure has returned $42 million so far to bettors on its races. The running tally is being used as a marketing tool on the feed of Saratoga's simulcast signal. "It's pretty clear that the takeout reduction is still stimulating handle," said Nader. "We couldn't be up without it."

Attendance is largely even with last year, at an average of 29,473 a day. Last year, the average through the first 23 days was 29,380. Ontrack handle is also even with last year, at $3,195,517 a day.

Starrer takes a crack at Personal Ensign

Starrer's trips to the East Coast have not been as fruitful as her connections would have liked. But that hasn't stopped them from taking another shot. Starrer arrived in Saratoga from California on Tuesday and will run in Friday's Grade 1, $400,000 Personal Ensign Handicap.

It will be her second cross-country trip in a month: She went to Delaware last month and finished fifth in the $600,000 Delaware Handicap. She had a little trouble in the race, but trainer John Shirreffs said that wasn't the difference in a 5 1/2-length loss to Summer Colony, who will most likely be the favorite in the Personal Ensign. "It was her second race back. It was a mile and a quarter over a deeper surface than she'd been training on," Shirreffs said. "I think those were bigger factors than being brushed."

Starrer, a daughter of Dynaformer, is 3 for 14 with all three of her wins coming in stakes. Last year, she won a pair of Grade 2 races at Hollywood Park when in the care of trainer David Hofmans.

She also shipped to New York for the Coaching Club American Oaks where she was made the 4-5 favorite, but stumbled and lost her rider coming out of the gate. She returned to New York for the Gazelle, but finished fifth. Starrer finished second behind Miss Linda in the Spinster at Keeneland before running fifth in the Breeders' Cup Distaff at Belmont.

Left Bank set to be released from hospital

Whitney winner Left Bank was expected to be released from a Massachusetts clinic by the end of the week, trainer Todd Pletcher said Tuesday. Meanwhile, Warners has begun to show signs of laminitis and will remain in a Saratoga clinic for the foreseeable future.

Left Bank underwent emergency colic surgery on Aug. 10 at the New England Veterinary Medical Center Hospital for Large Animals at Tufts University. His recovery appears to be on schedule, and he is likely to be flown to Ashford Stud in Lexington, Ky., when transportation becomes available.

Meanwhile, Warners, a sharp allowance winner on Aug. 10, was taken to a local clinic on Aug. 15, suffering from diarrhea and showing symptoms similar to that of Freedom's Daughter, a stakes-winning 2-year-old of Pletcher's who died on Aug. 12. "He's stabilized, his blood count has improved, but he's still sick," Pletcher said. "Our big concern is laminitis setting in, which he's shown early indications of. With intestinal tract infections that's the primary concern."

* As expected, Listen Here was euthanized following the races Monday afternoon after fracturing the two sesamoid bones in his left foreleg while training that morning. Listen Here, who won the Grade 2 Amsterdam Stakes on Aug. 3 and earned $287,480 for owners Lewis Lakin and Rodney and Kim Nardelli.

* Whywhywhy, winner of the Sanford Stakes, worked four furlongs in 48.66 seconds Tuesday over the Oklahoma training track. It was the fastest of 20 moves at the distance.

- additional reporting by Matt Hegarty