02/04/2005 12:00AM

Smith planning to be back

Trainer T.V. Smith and Offlee Wild in 2003, the year they won the Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - T.V. Smith knows all about workouts, having trained Thoroughbred racehorses since 1961. But, this winter, the only workouts involving Smith are the ones at his local YMCA in his adopted hometown of Louisville.

"I tell people I've been going to the Y to save my life, not to become a jock or anything," said Smith, who underwent triple-bypass heart surgery in late September.

Smith, 67, has spent his entire adult life on the racetrack, so the last few months have represented the first extended period during which he has not awakened before dawn to go to work with his racing stable. While his most productive years came in 1988 and 1989, when he won 48 races each year, and 1993, when the stable earned $871,832, he also has occasionally popped into the Triple Crown picture in recent years. He won the Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park in 1999 with Grits'n Hard Toast, then again won the race in 2003 with Offlee Wild.

But some of his longtime clients - most notably Tom Nichols, Robert Anderson, and Lansdon Robbins - had either dramatically reduced their Thoroughbred holdings or had opted for younger trainers, and when Churchill Downs ended its fall meet in late November, Smith had "just a few horses that really didn't need to go anywhere for the winter," he said.

So he turned the horses out to various farms, including nearby Longfield Farm, and thus began the first self-imposed vacation of his career. He still gets up early each morning and goes to the Y three days a week, arriving at about 6:30 a.m.

"You can't break old habits," he said. "I get on a treadmill and a stationary bike and work out maybe half an hour. Anything to get the heart rate up good."

Still, given a choice, Smith would rather be working his horses instead of his body. He said he fully intends to be back at Churchill when the stable area reopens in early March with "hopefully eight or nine horses," he said. "I'd love to come back stronger than ever."

Although Smith said his hiatus has been beneficial in terms of "not having anything pressing," he still misses being on the track every day. After working as a teenaged stablehand for his uncle, Myron Smith, in and around his native South Dakota, Smith went on to have more than 40 stakes winners among his 894 overall wins, with his horses having earned $13.3 million. Understandably, being separated from the game hasn't been all that easy.

"I miss the horses, of course," he said. "But I also miss the people, standing along the rail, the camaraderie you get with other trainers and other horse people. Obviously it's been a big part of my life, and I can't wait to get back."

Trophy the sole stakes casualty

With all the cancellations at Turfway Park in recent weeks, the Florence, Ky., track lost only one stakes: the Cincinnati Trophy, which was scheduled for Jan. 22. One other race, the Forego, was postponed from Jan. 29 but was scheduled to be made up Friday night.

"The reason we ran the Forego back instead of the Trophy was because it held together better," said Tyler Picklesimer, assistant racing secretary at Turfway. "Some of the 3-year-old fillies who were going to run in the Trophy had some other spots they could go in."

After canceling Thursday, nine full or partial programs already had been scrapped at Turfway since the winter-spring meet began Jan. 1.

* The first of three Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks future wager pools opens Thursday at tracks and simulcast outlets throughout the country. This is the seventh year that Churchill Downs has offered parimutuel futures. Pool 1 runs Thursday through Sunday. Pool 2 runs March 10-13, and Pool 3 is set for April 7-10.