12/11/2004 12:00AM

Some barns bear a look in early days


OLDSMAR Fla. - As Tampa Bay Downs begins its 2004-05 season, handicappers can expect to see entrants from tracks all around the country and horses with varying time gaps between their last starts, not to mention new stables and jockeys.

Probably no track in the country challenges the horseplayer with more variables in the early days of its meet before patterns and trends begin to surface.

With that in mind, here are thumbnail sketches of several stables that bettors need to give added consideration to during these first few weeks.

Joe Woodard: He came to Tampa from Kentucky for the first time last season and obviously liked what he saw, because he applied for more stalls and will have 20 head on the grounds for this meeting. A look at the first two days of entries show Woodard horses entered in almost every category, from maiden special weight races to the allowance ranks. He has sprinters, claimers, turf runners - in short, it looks as though the man has brought a well-rounded group.

Last season Woodard runners got off to a quick start. His horses usually look good physically, and bettors have learned in the past few seasons that runners from the Kentucky circuit are hickory-tough.

Ronnie Allen Sr.: The Allen barn took little time serving notice it was sitting on ready last season, sending out Tricks of Glory to win the opening-day Inaugural Stakes at 34-1 off a three-month layoff. Allen then continued to send out runners who were fit and led the trainer standings for more than half the meeting. The stable has continued to develop young runners, and Allen believes in a strong conditioning program, so it would be wise to give his youngsters a good long look before heading to the windows.

Gerald Bennett: The leading trainer at Great Lakes Downs the past two seasons, Bennett also believes in a vigorous training regimen for his runners. He is very good at putting horses in the right spots and very adept at moving his stock up and down the claiming ladder. It would be wise to give any Bennett runner consideration in this first month of the meeting.

Several other barns bear watching, including that of trainer Henry Carroll. The Carolina horseman who conditioned the crack sprinter Smoke Glacken, Carroll doesn't have a big stable, but he knows how to get a horse ready. The Lloyd L. "Pete" Palmer stable had a good late summer and fall at Delaware Park, and it has some promising youngsters who have bright futures. Last year's leading trainer here, Lynne Scace, does a good job of cycling her runners from other tracks and the farm to keep fresh stock, while Charles Hadry Jr. comes down from Maryland with good credentials. His father has been one of the top trainers in Maryland for many years, and the apple didn't fall far from the tree.

Of course, anything Kirk Ziade sends out has to be considered, what with his 31 percent winning rate this year. Mike Zwiesler rarely sends out a horse who isn't fit.

Giving runners from the aforementioned barns an extra look could well bring some lucrative rewards in these confusing opening weeks of the new meeting