07/26/2005 11:00PM

Rocky beginning to Spa meeting

Folklore (right) and Cornelio Velasquez win the Grade 2 Adirondack on opening day at Saratoga.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - The 2005 Saratoga meet stumbled out of the blocks.

From a spill in the first race, to a mutuel meltdown in the second race, to a lack of working televisions and tote boards throughout the plant, to horsemen upset with the security barn, the 137th Saratoga season opened with a whimper.

"It's been a trying day," said Charles Hayward, president and CEO of the New York Racing Association, which runs Saratoga.

About the only good news was that the forecasted thunderstorms never arrived, making this the first opening day in four years to be conducted under dry conditions. All that meant was that the heat and humidity made it an uncomfortable setting for most of the day for the ontrack crowd of 25,818, an increase of 512 fans from last year. Handle figures were unavailable because of technical problems.

Trainer D. Wayne Lukas salvaged a bad start to the meet when Folklore scored a minor upset in the Grade 2, $150,000 for juvenile fillies. Lukas, who won this race for the sixth time, had lost with his first six starters on the card.

Lukas was one of several horsemen who were upset with the setup of the security barn, which got the day off to an ominous start. Horsemen complained that the 80 temporary stalls were too small and that there was not enough electricity to allow for each horse to have an individual fan. Two regular barns are also being used, but they only house 30 horses.

Hayward disagreed with horsemen's assertions that the stalls were too small, but did say the

electrical issue would be resolved by Thursday.

On the frontside, NYRA had several problems beginning with its decision to start the meet with a steeplechase race. Jockey Matthew McCarron suffered a broken left arm and jockey William Dowling suffered broken ribs as a result of a spill over the sixth fence. A third jockey, Remy Winants, was uninjured in a separate fall. The spills took a lot of the excitement out of the crowd, which gave a loud roar when the race began.

"Honestly, I prayed as hard as I could pray that we wouldn't have a spill," said Bill Nader, senior vice president for NYRA. "Having the first race of the meet be a steeplechase was a roll of the dice."

The meet began with a jump race because NYRA decided to consolidate all steeplechase racing on Wednesdays, rather than Wednesdays and Thursdays.

Things didn't improve for NYRA when a power surge shut down mutuel windows throughout the plant before the start of the second race. That resulted in a loss of ontrack handle of $200,000. Offtrack wagering was not affected by the power surges.

NYRA's infield matrix boards were not working. According to Nader, they were damaged while being shipped from Belmont.

"All the wiring was on the floor of the trailer," Nader said.

Electricians have been working on the boards for several days and seemed to be making progress by day's end.

On the track, Lukas continued his career-long dominance of Saratoga's juvenile stakes program when Folklore, coming from off the pace, wore down Truart inside the sixteenth pole to win the Adirondack by three-quarters of a length. Fifth Avenue rallied from last to get second by a length over Truart. It was Lukas's 31st win in a juvenile stakes at Saratoga.

Folklore, owned by Bob and Beverly Lewis, dropped a couple of lengths off the early pace, which was contested by Truart and My Lucky Fee. Cornelio Velasquez guided Folklore four wide turning for home, found room between horses, and was able to launch a rally. Folklore, a daughter of Tiznow, covered the six furlongs in 1:13.66 and returned $10.60.

"I was concerned by the fact we took back, but when they were rolling I was glad we weren't into that first wave of horses," Lukas said. "But I was more concerned about the top of the stretch, not having a place to go."

Lukas said Folklore would likely make her next start in the Grade 2 Spinaway on Aug. 26.