10/10/2002 12:00AM

Russell scrapped over lack of horses


SAN MATEO, Calif. - No Seabiscuit promotion. No stakes. It's "simply Saturday" at Bay Meadows.

Only three fillies and mares entered the scheduled $60,000-added Charles H. Russell Handicap at six furlongs. The race was canceled and will not be rescheduled, although racing secretary Greg Brent will try to fill an allowance sprint for the Sunday card.

Brent said one reason the race was cancelled is a similar sprint stakes is tentatively scheduled for Nov. 10 at Golden Gate Fields.

With only seven nominees, Brent was not optimistic that the Russell would go. But he is frustrated that for the third time during the meeting one of the scheduled overnight handicaps did not draw enough entries to run.

"It's very disappointing," he said. "We shuffled, rescheduled, and made a lot of adjustments at the request of local horsemen. Then look what happens."

The Autumn Leaves, a mile race for fillies and mares, had to be postponed in September. It was run last Sunday with six entrants, including two who may have run in the Russell.

There was a sprint allowance race last Sunday at Santa Anita that might have drained some potential entrants, as did the upcoming $100,000 Ken Maddy there at 6 1/2 furlongs on the turf.

The Seabiscuit bobblehead promotion was canceled after the bobbleheads could not be delivered due to the closure of West Coast ports.

Hospital construction starts

An informal groundbreaking ceremony was held Friday at Golden Gate Fields for a long-promised equine hospital.

There has been no ontrack equine hospital since the old Bay Meadows barn area was razed in 1998.

The 4,000-foot facility, located at the old south grandstand entrance near the barn area, will include X-ray, prep, surgery and detention rooms, as well as offices, lab, a conference room, and darkroom.

"It is built in the image of Southern California equine hospitals," Golden Gate Fields vice president Peter Tunney said. "It will be a triage facility where we can handle emergency surgeries.

"We appreciate that people have been so patient as we've gotten approval [to build] from the City of Albany. It was a team effort."

Dr. Roger Hunter, one of the veterinarians who pushed for the hospital's construction, said, "We're all happy it's finally taking place."