06/10/2001 11:00PM

Stevens looks for weekend return


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Jockey Gary Stevens on Monday was diagnosed with a sprained right knee after an incident in the post parade of Sunday's eighth race at Hollywood Park.

The minor injury, which occurred a day after he won the $1 million Belmont Stakes aboard Point Given, will keep Stevens away until the weekend. As a result, he said he will not ride at Royal Ascot in England next week.

On Sunday, Stevens feared he had severely damaged the right knee, but on Monday he was told by Dr. James Tibone that he suffered only a sprain. The injury occurred when the inside of Stevens's right knee hit the saddle hard after Pride of Cats bucked repeatedly while walking during the post parade.

After walking for a few minutes to try and reduce the soreness, Stevens remounted Pride of Cats, but climbed off again and went to first aid. He took off his final two mounts, including White Heart in the $350,000 Charles Whittingham Handicap.

"I'll be out of action until the weekend," he said. "There's no tear. Just a sprain and some swelling. He said to ice it and I'll be ready to roll."

Stevens, who retired for eight months last year because of knee injuries, said he will ride sparingly until the Del Mar meeting begins on July 18. As a result, he will not ride at Royal Ascot.

"I don't want to risk any further damage and ride horses I don't know," he said of Royal Ascot. "I don't think it's in my best interest or in the interest of the people I would be riding for. I've got to take care of this thing."

Millennium Wind may go in Affirmed

Millennium Wind, who has not started since finishing 11th in the Kentucky Derby, worked six furlongs in 1:13.60 on Monday, but is not a definite for Sunday's $100,000 Affirmed Handicap.

A final decision is likely to come Wednesday, according to trainer David Hofmans. "For now, we're going to point for it."

The presence of Millennium Wind, who won the Santa Catalina Stakes and Blue Grass Stakes earlier this year, adds considerable depth to the Affirmed, a prep to the $500,000 Swaps Stakes on July 15.

Hofmans said Millennium Wind continues to be plagued by the skin fungus and cracked feet that bothered him extensively in the buildup to the Kentucky Derby.

"We're still battling it," he said.

The Affirmed will include Bayou the Moon and Until Sundown, the first two finishers of the minor Alydar Stakes on May 23; Early Flyer, the winner of the Laz Barrera Stakes on May 28; and Take My Note, the winner of a maiden race.

Crafty C.T., who won the San Rafael Stakes and finished second to Point Given in the Santa Anita Derby, will wait for the Swaps, trainer Howard Zucker said. On Sunday, Crafty C.T. worked six furlongs in 1:16.60.

"He worked kind of slow," said Zucker, who timed Crafty C.T. in 1:15.60. "He came back like a fit horse, but I can't run him off that. He would have had to have gone in 12 and change for me to run him."

No clear Princess standout

Without Golden Ballet, the multiple stakes winner who was retired last week because of a a tendon injury, Saturday's $100,000 Princess Stakes has become a wide-open race.

Affluent, second to Golden Ballet in the Santa Anita Oaks earlier this year, and Starrer, the winner of the Santa Paula Stakes at Santa Anita in April, have joined the field as a result of Golden Ballet's defection.

Hofmans had even considered sending Starrer to New York for last week's Acorn Stakes before Golden Ballet was retired.

Affluent may be favored, although Love at Noon, who was second in the Grade 3 Dogwood Stakes at Churchill Downs on May 26, may assume that role. The Grade 2 Princess Stakes, run over 1 1/16 miles, may also feature Bafferta and Little Firefly.

Gold Scammer 'stiff' but okay

Gold Scammer, a 2-year-old filly who was making her debut in Sunday's second race, escaped serious injury when she clipped heels with the front-running Bully's Del Mar in the final sixteenth of a five-furlong maiden race.

On Monday, trainer Ron Ellis said Gold Scammer was stiff, but did not emerge with any major injuries. A precautionary set of tests will be conducted at the end of the week, he said.

"Surprisingly, she seems reasonably okay," Ellis said. "Her legs look okay, but she's a little stiff. Overall, I think we got lucky. It happened so fast I wasn't sure if she clipped heels or just fell."

The 2-5 favorite, Gold Scammer, who is owned by the Siegel family, was within a length of Bully's Del Mar when the leader began to drift to the outside and into the path of the trailing filly. David Flores, who rode Gold Scammer, tried to pull up his mount, but clipped heels and fell.

Both Flores and Gold Scammer were on the ground for several minutes. Flores walked back to the jockey's room, while Gold Scammer was taken by ambulance to Ellis's barn.

Bully's Del Mar, who was 77-1, was disqualified from first and placed last. Her jockey, Felipe Martinez, walked out to greet to Flores as he was coming off the track.

Trainers to meet on labor issues

Meetings have been called on Wednesday and Thursday by the California Thoroughbred Trainers to discuss labor issues the group faces with pending legislation and ongoing backstretch investigations by the state labor board.

A bill that would establish a system to unionize backstretch workers has passed the state Assembly, but is currently on hold. It may reappear in a Senate bill that would allow telephone betting in California, according to CTT executive director Ed Halpern.

Last fall, a combined bill allowing telephone betting and a system to establish a backstretch union was vetoed by Gov. Gray Davis after passing the legislature.

Halpern said this week's meetings - at Hollywood Park on Wednesday and Santa Anita on Thursday - are designed to update members, many of whom he said feel harassed by labor board investigators and unclear on the status of the union bills.

The investigators were present at Hollywood Park last week interviewing stable employees on their working conditions.