07/07/2002 11:00PM

Romans three-peats, sort of


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The odds are nearly incalculable on how all this could happen. Dale Romans tied for leading trainer at Churchill Downs for the third straight spring. That seems almost impossible in itself.

But the way it has happened each year seems to add exponentially to the equation.

In 2000, D. Wayne Lukas won the Bashford Manor Stakes on the second-to-last race of the meet to gain an 18-18 tie with Romans.

Last year, Bernie Flint won the last race of the meet to tie Romans at 22.

And Sunday, Tom Amoss needed to upset Posse with Lone Star Sky in the Bashford Manor, again the second-to-last race of the meet. Upset accomplished - and Amoss was in a 23-23 tie with one race to go.

Lending the endgame scenario even more improbability was that Amoss had the favorite in the last race: Miss Lodi, a 3-2 shot who had set a track record in her last start. "I think that's a special filly," a discouraged Romans said before the race. "I'm probably going to just listen to the race and leave."

But Miss Lodi was overtaken down the stretch by 11-1 shot Town Queen, allowing Romans to hold onto yet another shared crown. Romans said he was relieved and happy with the final result, while Amoss, who has won or tied for nine training titles at the Fair Grounds but had never won one in Kentucky, said he was "extremely excited."

"Before the stake, if someone had asked if I would settle for a tie, I'd have said, 'Gosh, yes,' " said Amoss, who had run five losers earlier in the day. "I'd had some pretty bad moments up until then."

Through the entire last week of the meet, Romans, 35, and Amoss, 39, had been having plenty of fun with their battle. After Romans won the fifth race Sunday with Crows to take a short-lived lead, he snuck up behind Amoss, who was talking on his cell phone with his wife, Colleen.

Said Amoss: "I was asking her what the score was" in a softball game in which his daughter, Hayley, was playing. "And then Dale says, '23-22.' "

Promising juvenile dies

In the wee hours of Saturday morning Slammed, one of the most promising 2-year-olds to race this meet, was found dead in Al Stall Jr.'s shed row following an accident.

Slammed, a Grand Slam colt who won his first and only start on June 29 by a sensational 5 1/2 lengths, apparently ran through the webbing in his stall and smashed head-on into the outside retaining wall of the barn. An autopsy at the University of Kentucky has been scheduled.

"I got a call in the middle of the night from my night watchman, who said he heard a big thud," said Stall. The employee "went around the corner, and there he was, laid out there in the shed row."

Stall said that because of a change to cooler weather Friday night, the colt "might have just been so fresh and feeling good that he literally broke out of the webbing and went straight into the wall, head-on."

Slammed, a $250,000 yearling purchase, was owned by B. Wayne Hughes, the Southern California public-storage magnate who raced Grade 1 winner Joyeux Danseur with Stall in the late 1990's.

Cooksey aims for Turfway

Patti Cooksey was one of quite a few jockeys who returned to action at the spring meet after being sidelined with injury or illness.

Cooksey, the second-leading winningest female rider in North American racing history, began riding again late last month after having missed nearly 10 months following her recovery from breast cancer.

Cooksey, 44, did not win a race from seven mounts, but she did have three runner-up finishes, including two with longshots Richter's Emblem and Annual Dues. She will ride sparingly at Ellis before becoming more active again at the Turfway meet in September.

Other jockeys who missed significant portions of the meet before making their returns in recent weeks were Robby Albarado, Jimmy Lopez, Greta Kuntzweiler, Tony D'Amico, and apprentice Valerie Nagle.

Joe Judice and apprentice Kris Prather also are expected to return soon at Ellis.

Lukas barn rakes it in

D. Wayne Lukas, who was coming off another spring meet title at Keeneland, did not threaten to win the title here but nevertheless enjoyed another outstanding spring, winning 15 races, including five stakes.

Lukas, in 1995, has been the only other trainer ever to have won five stakes at a Churchill meet - not counting when summer was racing was conducted here in the early 1980's - and he would have had a sixth at this meet if Snow Ridge had not been disqualified in the Churchill Downs Handicap on Kentucky Derby day.

Total earnings for Lukas at the meet were $1,208,844, second only to the $1,237,605 won by Bob Baffert. The bulk of Baffert's winnings came in the Derby with War Emblem.

"We were way up there in the category that counts - money won," said Lukas.

* With trainer Chuck Simon having dropped his appeal of a 15-day medication violation, newly hired assistant Roger Edwards collected the first win of his training career Sunday when No More Chads ($14.40) won the fourth race. Simon dropped his appeal with the Kentucky Racing Commission so that he will be able to resume working when Saratoga begins July 24.

* A.P. Five Hundred, a promising 3-year-old who would have been strongly favored in the allowance feature here Friday, was scratched because of a minor setback, said trainer Niall O'Callaghan. The colt felt good enough to work at Churchill on Sunday, after which O'Callaghan said he would point the colt to the July 27 Round Table at Arlington.

* Touch Tone, second to Point Given in the Haskell last summer, also breezed Sunday, going an easy half-mile in 52.20 seconds. Touch Tone has not raced since undergoing ankle and knee surgery following a third-place finish in the Pennsylvania Derby in September.

* Sarava breezed five furlongs Saturday in 1:00.80, the colt's third workout since his stunning victory in the June 8 Belmont Stakes. Trainer Ken McPeek said he is looking at either of a pair of Aug. 4 races: the Haskell at Monmouth or the Jim Dandy at Saratoga. The Aug. 24 Travers remains the main goal, said McPeek.

* Larry Jack Butler notched the first victory of his training career when City Rapid ($2.60) won the first race Saturday.

* Trainer Pat Byrne won three races on closing weekend, including an allowance race Saturday with Desert Gold, a filly he hopes to run at Saratoga in the Grade 1 Test Stakes on July 27.

* Trainer Dallas Stewart said Nasty Storm and Sweet Nanette, both winners last weekend, will be pointed to the Grade 1 Ballerina at Saratoga on Aug. 25.

* Because the meet was ending, there was a mandatory payout on the pick six Sunday. Sparked by a carryover of $12,919, the final pool was $80,388; there were 22 $1 tickets sold with a perfect 6 for 6. The winning payoff was $2,807.

* Kevin McCutchan of Louisville won the finals of the meet-long handicapping contest Friday to earn $5,000 and a trip to the Daily Racing Form/ NTRA National Handicapping Finals in Las Vegas in January.

* Rick Leigh, director of racing at Turfway Park, is seeking stall applications for the fall meet, which begins Sept. 4.