11/01/2005 12:00AM

Philly Park starter resigns

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The longtime chief of Philadelphia Park's gate crew has resigned after an incident on Sunday in which the starting gate failed to open for four of the seven horses in the race.

Russell Downes, 65, submitted his resignation on Monday, according to Hal Handel, the chief executive officer of Greenwood Racing, the owner of Philadelphia Park. Downes had worked at Philadelphia Park for "at least 20 years," Handel said.

The Sunday incident was the second gate error in less than two months at the Bensalem, Pa., track. On Sept. 5, the filly Private Gift was left stranded behind the gate at the start of the Pennsylvania Oaks, an error that Downes admitted was his fault. Philadelphia Park had to refund $128,973 in wagers on the filly.

Downes was suspended for one week by Philadelphia Park for the error.

Last Sunday, four of the seven horses in the eighth race were left in the gate at the start of the race when their stall doors failed to open. Only three horses finished the race, which was declared a no-contest. Philadelphia refunded approximately $50,000 in bets.

Handel said Tuesday that track maintenance crews took apart the gate to test its components on Monday, but did not find anything that appeared to indicate a malfunction.