02/27/2003 12:00AM

Rampart: Good people and fast fillies


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Racing's greatest strength has always been the quality of people attracted to it. One of the most remarkable was John D. Hertz, founder of the rent-a-car company. His will directed that a sum of $50 million go to government-sponsored scholarships. He asked that the money be used for the training of engineers, who would receive scholarships in exchange for one year of service to their country.

Hertz and his wife, Fanny, who raced Triple Crown winner Count Fleet and many other outstanding horses, celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary with a big party for family and friends. One of the gifts to guests was a biography Hertz had printed. Written by Daily Racing Form columnist Evan Shipman, it traced the Hertzes' marriage and concluded with a touching little poem written by Hertz:

"She's my Fanny and I'm her John, I love her dearly though time goes on.

Golden weddings to me don't often occur But boy oh boy what I would give to live it all over again with her."

What brought this to mind is Saturday evening's 50th wedding anniversary celebration honoring retired Louisville, Ky. banker Bert Klein and his wife, Elaine. Some 150 family members and friends will gather to toast them, but most plan to be with the Kleins earlier in the afternoon when their Allamerican Bertie, an odds-on favorite, challenges for the $200,000 Rampart Handicap for fillies and mares at nine furlongs.

The Kleins and their son, Richard, have raced some fine horses over the years but Allamerican Bertie, a homebred 4-year-old daughter of Quiet American who has earned almost $680,000, may prove to be the best.

She looks to be a standout in the Rampart's six-horse field. When she ran in last month's Sabin Handicap, she led all the way under Jerry Bailey to win by more than five lengths. She looks to be the speed once again in the Rampart, enabling her to set her own pace, a huge advantage.

Allamerican Bertie will be conceding weight to all, in some cases as much as nine pounds. She will not have the services of Bailey, who will be in California to ride Congaree in the Santa Anita Handicap. However John Velazquez has been in spark- ling form this winter and should prove an able deputy.

There is some concern that 'Bertie' is being asked to run back after an interval of three weeks. Trainer Steve Flint undoubtedly would prefer a four-week period but knows the filly and is confident she is equal to the task. There are divisional aspirations for 'Bertie' this season and champions are always tested a little more.

One of the principal threats to the favorite is Redoubled Miss, a 4-year-old filly by Adhocracy who ran well to finish third in the Sabin. She has improved steadily with maturity and finishes her races with an authority that could pay rich dividends at any time. Redoubled Miss is owned and is bred by Vernon and Brad Heath, who race and breed as Centaur Farm.

Racing is a game of highs and lows and Vernon Heath has some highs coming to him. He was at Belmont Park in the fall of 2001 when Exogenous, the best horse he ever raced, was snatched from him by a cruel twist of fate. The lovely filly, a Grade 1 stakes winner and a leading prospect for the divisional title, was in the post parade for the Breeders' Cup Distaff when she spooked coming out of the tunnel leading onto the track and became entangled in a fence. She struggled and injured herself so severely that it became necessary to put her down.

Another man might have become soured by the experience. Instead, Heath increased his activity in racing and now has more than 20 horses in training - some in Miami with Ron Spatz, the trainer of Redoubled Miss, and with Kathleen O'Connell, some in New York with Randy Schulhofer, and some at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans with Merrill Scherer. Centaur Farm's 20 broodmares are headquartered in Ocala, Fla., and Lexington, Ky.

Vernon Heath, 74, was co-founder and directed the activities of the Rosemont Corporation for 23 years until it was sold to Emerson Electric. He now devotes more time to his extensive racing and breeding operations and other investments. He is assisted by son Brad, a microbiologist in California until he recently returned to Minnesota. The Heaths are serious about raising and racing good horses and they may have another one in their filly who will challenge Allamerican Bertie in the Rampart.