05/24/2001 12:00AM

Rollin With Nolan euthanized, at 4


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - From his very first start, Rollin With Nolan proved an adventure for owner Ken Ramsey.

Rollin With Nolan won his career debut at the 2000 Gulfstream meet at 24-1. Unfortunately for Ramsey, who seldom has met a mutuel window he didn't like, he neglected to bring much cash to Gulfstream that afternoon. Problems involving an offtrack betting account and his cell phone precluded him from getting down a meaningful wager.

On Thursday, Rollin With Nolan was euthanized with a legal injection, unable to overcome the serious leg injuries he sustained when he broke down during the Churchill Downs Handicap on May 5, Kentucky Derby Day.

But for Ramsey, who has an uncannily upbeat perspective on life, the memories will be sweet, not bitter. Ramsey, who owned Rollin With Nolan with his wife, Sarah, said Rollin With Nolan "gave us nothing but pleasure. He was like a family pet."

Although veterinarian Larry Bramlage was diligent in attempting to save Rollin With Nolan for stud duty, the the colt, a 4-year-old by Summer Squall, took a turn for the worse early this week. His entire hoof wall fell off, because of insufficient blood flow; the lower leg was beyond repair, said Bramlage. So on Thursday afternoon, Rollin With Nolan was brought home from the Rood and Riddle equine clinic in Lexington to the Ramseys' farm in Nicholasville, Ky., where he was buried.

Rollin With Nolan, a winner in five of 15 career starts, was a Kentucky Derby candidate in the spring of 2000, much to his owners' delight. When Ramsey was interviewed on national television at Turfway Park before the running of the Spiral Stakes, he grinned nonstop from ear to ear. He talked about how Rollin With Nolan was named for his small grandchild and what a thrill it would be for him, as a Kentuckian, to take a horse to the Derby.

Rollin With Nolan, trained by Nick Zito, finished a good third in the Spiral and was still under consideration for the Derby when he ran in the Lexington Stakes at Keeneland. But the colt finished fifth after being struck accidentally in the eye by a rival jockey's whip. The next day, emergency surgery was required to save the eye.

"We went through a lot with him," said Ramsey. "Horses like him are what this game's all about."

Baffert, um, settles for Day

For whatever reason, Bob Baffert seldom has employed Pat Day on his horses. But Saturday, Baffert will give Day a leg up on Love at Noon in the Dogwood Stakes. "He's all I could scrape up there," cracked Baffert.

In a more serious vein, Baffert said, "instead of flying somebody else in, I just thought we'd get Pat. He's ridden a few for me before, but we've never won one."

Of his top older horse, Captain Steve, Baffert said he would work at Churchill this weekend. Captain Steve is pointing to the June 16 Stephen Foster Handicap, his first start since his Dubai World Cup victory.

Baffert said another stable star, Point Given, "probably will work just once, probably the next weekend," before making his next start in the June 9 Belmont Stakes.

Melancon goes 4 for 6

Veteran jockey Larry Melancon enjoyed a memorable afternoon Wednesday, riding four winners from six mounts, doubling his win total at the spring meet.

Melancon won the fourth race on Miss Kate ($5.80), the seventh on Casual Feat ($31.40), the ninth on favored Northcote Road ($5.40), and the 10th on Hornswoggle ($42.20).

Melancon, 44, is the fifth-leading rider in Churchill history, with 732 winners. Day is easily the career leader with over 2,000.

* Trainer Dale Romans will run the filly Open Story against males again in the $150,000 Kentucky Breeders' Cup Stakes Monday. Open Story dead-heated for win with City Street in the Three Chimneys Juvenile on Derby Day. Other 2-year-olds likely for the 5 1/2-furlong Kentucky BC are Handsome Hunk, Lakeside Cup, Leelanau, Pharaoh's Cat, and Storm Witch.

* Into the Thursday card, Day was just 12 away from the 8,000-victory milestone. Day won two races here Wednesday.