10/03/2002 11:00PM

Roving mutuel clerks serve bettors


LEXINGTON, Ky. - As a sudden gust of wind blew over a wooden folding chair just a few feet from her, Lisa Honeycutt expressed confidence that business would improve over the $100 or so she was selling in mutuel tickets each race.

"This weather isn't helping, and most people don't know we're out here," Honeycutt said after the fourth race Friday at Keeneland, where, for the first time, some 20 roving mutuel clerks were dispersed throughout the clubhouse and grandstand. "I'm sure it'll get better."

Like most of the rovers, Honeycutt and Jerry Colopy are relative newcomers to the business of punching mutuel tickets. But unlike at other venues - such as The Red Mile clubhouse in Lexington, where Honeycutt says rovers are "real popular" - customer demand on opening day at Keeneland did not require skills of great speed or efficiency.

The 20 rovers that Keeneland has hired are in addition to its regular mutuels staff. Dressed in green-vested uniforms and equipped with high-tech, hand-held mutuel terminals, they essentially have been ordered to cater to people who find buying from rovers more convenient than walking to a permanent mutuel station.

Midway through the card, Honeycutt and Colopy were on the first-floor grandstand, where crowds sheltered themselves from the rain and winds that engulfed Keeneland all day. One floor above them, rover Sharon Watkins walked up a flight of grandstand stairs, saying that although her business also was light, she believed it would improve in time.

"People just aren't used to it yet," she said. "But I think it's a great idea. Plus, I'm having a ball."

Although rovers are not new at parimutuel facilities, and such a concept has been employed for years at various tracks and simulcast outlets throughout North America, Keeneland is attempting to take the wireless technology a step further, said track president Nick Nicholson.

"This is a concept that mostly has been limited to enclosed areas," said Nicholson, referring to upscale dining rooms and other premium-service areas. "What we're doing is stretching it, taking it to wherever the people are. If on a day like this the people are all huddled into one area, then that's where the clerks will be going. If it's a sunny day and the fans are outside, that's where they'll be that day.

"We're always willing to try things like this. If people like it, we'll try to keep growing it. Three or four years from now, hopefully we'll be the standard for this type of technology and everyone will be looking at us as a model."

Sycamore, Storm Cat enhance Sunday card

As if the card wasn't good enough, two stakes aside from the Grade 1 co-features will be run here Sunday: the $150,000 Sycamore Breeders' Cup and the $75,000 Storm Cat.

The Sycamore (race four) will be somewhat of a quick return for Rochester, who just 15 days ago posted the richest victory of his career in the $300,000 Kentucky Cup Turf. Rochester, trained by Jonathan Sheppard, is the prototype of the Sycamore starters in that he tends to do his best work in turf marathons, having earned the bulk of his $534,212 bankroll in exactly this sort of 1 1/2-mile event.

Several challengers to Rochester pose genuine threats, including Lord Flasheart, a temperamental 5-year-old from the powerful Bobby Frankel shed row; Roxinho, a former Brazilian champion who recently posted his first U.S. stakes win at Ellis Park; and Kim Loves Bucky, who won the 1 1/2-mile Elkhorn Stakes here in the spring. In all, a field of seven was entered.

The Storm Cat (race seven) pits nine 3-year-olds at a mile on turf. Dell Place, a winner of the restricted Relaunch Stakes at Del Mar two starts back, is perhaps the top contender in what shapes up to be a competitive race.

Another major threat is Honor in War, a Lord at War colt principally owned by former NFL All-Pro Will Wolford. Honor In War has shown flashes of brilliance in a six-race career, including an Aug. 11 comeback victory at Arlington Park.

The Sunday card also includes two allowances (races three and nine).

Spinster is Printemps's Breeders' Cup

Although the connections of most of the runners in the Spinster Stakes are hoping the race will be a springboard to the Breeders' Cup Distaff, trainer Ron McAnally said the Spinster is the major year-end goal for Printemps, a 5-year-old bred in Chile.

"She's not eligible for the Breeders' Cup, so I doubt we would run even off a big race," said McAnally.

An upset by Printemps would make for a record fourth Spinster win for McAnally, the Hall of Famer who won with Bayakoa in 1989-90 and Paseana in 1993. Although Printemps was favored before finishing third against Azeri in the Santa Margarita in March, she has raced just once since then, finishing second in a restricted stakes at Del Mar Aug. 30.

Printemps, who was third behind Miss Linda last year in the Spinster, sharpened for her return engagement with a half-mile breeze in 49.40 seconds here Friday morning.

o Another Spinster outsider is Lakenheath, a Chicago-based filly entered off a game victory in the Sept. 2 Matron at Arlington. "We figured we might be the longest shot in the race," said Andy Hansen, longtime assistant to trainer Gene Cilio. "But she ran so well last out, we figured she deserved to try these top horses. It'd be nice to go back home with a legitimate right to run in the Breeders' Cup."

Equirace presents Freefourinternet

One of the more intriguing starters in the Shadwell Mile is Freefourinternet, a Kentucky-bred 4-year-old who recently was purchased by Equirace LLC, an equine syndicate managed by Ron and Amy Peltz in Birmingham, Ala.

After racing 10 times in Europe for Brian Meehan, Freefourinternet finished a respectable eighth in the Aug. 17 Arlington Million. He was turned over to trainer Chuck Simon at Churchill Downs about a week later.

"I really like the way he's trained," said Simon. "I think he's got a decent shot Sunday. He'll get Lasix for the first time, and soft ground sure wouldn't hurt."

Equirace is attempting to join the likes of Dogwood Stable, Team Valor, and West Point Thoroughbreds as a major presence among U.S. horse syndicates.

Sightseek works for Raven Run

Sightseek, the Juddmonte Farms filly who will be the favorite Wednesday in the $150,000 Raven Run Stakes, blew out five furlongs here Friday morning in 1:01.20. Clockers caught the Bobby Frankel-trained filly going the first three-eighths in 39 seconds, meaning she went the last quarter-mile in 22.20.

Sightseek, an easy winner of a Sept. 20 allowance at Belmont in her last start, will be turning back from 1 1/16 miles to seven furlongs. Jerry Bailey will be in to ride her again.

At least six other 3-year-old fillies are expected for the Raven Run: Colonial Glitter, Driana, For Rubies, Miss Lodi, Spring Meadow, and Take the Cake.

Now in only its fourth year, the Raven Run already has been awarded Grade 3 status. Standouts such as Darling My Darling, Surfside, Forest Secrets and Nasty Storm were among the previous contestants.