01/15/2004 1:00AM

With a name like that, he'll love grass


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - The young man nicknamed Kuch was several time zones away in Hawaii when his namesake raced to his first career victory Wednesday at Gulfstream Park.

Kuch (pronounced "kooch"), a 4-year-old Unbridled colt, is named for professional golfer Matt Kuchar, a 25-year-old former U.S. Amateur champion who is competing in the Sony Open in Honolulu this weekend.

"Kuch is a good friend of my son Jim's," said Jim Tafel Sr., who bred and owns the colt. "He has spent a lot of time with the family, both here and in Illinois. We think a lot of Kuch, so we named a horse for him."

Kuch (the horse) is out of Til Forbid, a multiple-stakes-winning mare who has been a terrific producer for Tafel, a retired publisher who lives in Barrington, Ill. Trained by Carl Nafzger, Kuch has been slow to develop, but his rallying triumph in a 1 1/16-mile maiden special weight race seems to portend better things. He pulled away to win by two lengths after looping the field on the far turn.

"We've always thought he could be an awful nice racehorse," said Nafzger.

New pick three rules

In a substantive change regarding the role of late scratches in pick three wagers, the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering announced this week that it has amended rules governing the distribution of pick three pools, effective immediately.

According to a press release from the regulatory agency, the thrust of the change is to eliminate the assignment of the post-time favorite in any leg of the pick three when a late scratch occurs. The new rules dictate that consolation payoffs or refunds be paid in lieu of automatically replacing the scratched horse with the favorite.

The new rules include a full refund of any wagers involving a scratched horse if that horse was scratched before the pick three wager began, and a consolation payout in the case of a scratch occurring after the wager had already begun. The new rules further stipulate that a single consolation pool will be established for each pick three pool, meaning the consolation payout will be the same regardless of whether a ticket had one winner and two scratches or two winners and one scratch.

Edward Mackie, director of mutuels at Gulfstream, said the change was initiated by frequent complaints from patrons concerning the previous method of dealing with scratches. The rule changes have been adopted by all parimutuel facilities in the state, including harness and dog tracks.

Winning colors

Before Winter Harbor ran in the second race here Wednesday, assistant trainer Larry Kelly made sure that the filly's late owner would be acknowledged in case the filly won.

Before leading her over to the paddock, Kelly wove patches of white, green and blue cloth - the colors of Overbrook Farm - into Winter Harbor's tail. Sure enough, Winter Harbor was up in the final jumps to narrowly prevail, making her the first horse to win for Overbrook since farm owner W.T. Young died Monday at age 85.

Kelly, who began working for trainer D. Wayne Lukas last year, said he was touched by how events unfolded. "You can see the colors in the win picture," said Kelly. "It was just a little thought, a little memorial for Mr. Young. He was a great man."

Roar Emotion wins in return

Roar Emotion, winner of the Grade 2 Demoiselle Stakes at 2 and Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan last year, returned from a seven-month layoff to win Thursday's $38,000 allowance feature over a game but outclassed Kiss Me Twice.

Roar Emotion led throughout, then had to turn back a stretch-long bid from Kiss Me Twice before posting a one-length victory. It was nearly 13 lengths back to the third-place finisher, Paisley Park, in a 1 1/16-mile third-level optional claimer.

Roar Emotion was saddled for the first time on Thursday by Kiaran McLaughlin, who took over training duties on Oct. 1. The start was her first since she finished far back in the Grade 1 Mother Goose on June 28.

"It was a hot day and she didn't sweat for some reason in the Mother Goose," explained owner Joseph Allen. "Then we gave her some time off, and she developed a splint in behind that had to be fired and cost us more time."

McLaughlin, who has won with 4 of his first 7 starters at the meet, said he will point Roar Emotion for the $100,000 Sabin Handicap on Feb. 15.

"I think she'll come on a lot from this race," said McLaughlin.

Don't watch now

Say what you want about Madcap Escapade, the 3-year-old Hennessy filly who won her career debut by 10 lengths here Jan. 4. Just don't be coming by to see her every day at the Frank Brothers barn.

"She's not up to a 'Pulpit Watch,' I can tell you that," joked Brothers.

It was seven years ago that Brothers came under intense scrutiny when he unveiled Pulpit early in the Gulfstream meet. Pulpit began his career with three straight sensational wins, capped by the Fountain of Youth Stakes. The colt was such a refreshing phenomenon that Daily Racing Form began running a daily column called the Pulpit Watch.

Madcap Adventure, said Brothers, was scheduled for her first breeze since her victory "no later than Saturday or Sunday. We're in no hurry to run her back" in an entry-level allowance race.

Options for Blushing Indian

Trainer Dale Romans said he probably is leaning more toward the 1 1/16-mile Fountain of Youth instead of the seven-furlong Hutcheson Stakes for Blushing Indian, the Cherokee Run colt who posted an impressive victory in a seven-furlong allowance here last week. Both Grade 2 races will be run Feb. 14.

"It's a matter of whether he continues to improve and to show he's willing to relax," said Romans. "So far, he's doing what we ask, and that last race was really good. If he keeps going like this, I'd be more inclined to try him in the Fountain of Youth, but we'll have to see how he does."

* Breeders' Cup Sprint champion Cajun Beat worked four furlongs in 49.60 seconds at Palm Meadows on Thursday. Winner of the Grade 3 Mr. Prospector Handicap here opening day, Cajun Beat will make his next start Feb. 7 in the Grade 3 Deputy Minister Handicap.

* The $60,000 Dame Mysterieuse Stakes, a six-furlong dash for 3-year-old fillies scheduled for Saturday, was canceled when only three horses were entered. The track's racing secretary, Dave Bailey, said the race will not be brought back.

- additional reporting by Mike Welsch