06/29/2003 11:00PM

Strike by gate crew still possible


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Officials with several California racetracks and members of the starting-gate crew are continuing negotiations this week to resolve a salary dispute that threatens to result in a mid-July strike.

Gate crew members, also known as assistant starters, are seeking a three-tiered pay system based on experience that would include substantial raises from the current daily salary of about $125. Under their proposal, gate crew members with eight or more years of experience would receive $225 per day, those with at least three years' experience would receive $175, and those with less would be paid $140.

Talks between the two sides have been held in recent weeks. The assistant starters have notified the California Horse Racing Board of their intent to strike on July 11 if an agreement is not reached.

On June 25, the assistant starters, members of the Teamsters Local 495, gave the CHRB a mandatory 15-day notice of intent to strike.

Travis Keil, 37, the highest-ranking assistant starter at the Hollywood Park and Del Mar meetings, said he and his colleagues are tired of fighting for higher pay. He said he started working on the gate crew in 1986 and was paid $119 a day. He currently makes $127.

"We need to get it resolved quickly or something will happen," Keil said. "We haven't had any raises in a long time, and I think we deserve it.

"We school horses and put on tongue ties. We do a lot around here. There are guys that just gallop horses and make as much as we do.

"We were a mile away early," he said of negotiations, "but now we want to get it finalized. For some of the guys, they are tired of negotiating."

The assistant starters scheduled to work Friday during training hours called in sick. The assistant starters wanted to strike Friday until they were informed that such a move would have been illegal without a 15-day notification.

Meetings between the two sides were scheduled at Hollywood Park on Monday and Tuesday.

Keil said there currently are 47 gate crew members at three tracks in California - Hollywood Park, Los Alamitos, and the Alameda County Fair at Pleasanton. At Hollywood Park, the crew varies depending on field size, but there are nine full-time members, Keil said.

Track officials said over the weekend that the pay-scale increase requested by the assistant starters was too high. The officials have asked the union to try and find less expensive health care coverage. The savings from less expensive health insurance could be reallocated to wages

"If they had a better plan on the health and welfare, we could do better," said Rick Baedeker, the president of Hollywood Park. "We can move some serious dollars into the wages. That's a choice they have to make to get a more efficient and affordable plan. We'll have as long a discourse as they need."

Injured in Kentucky, Go for Glamour is back

It was probably a blessing that trainer Beau Greely did not have a clear view of the first turn of the Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs on May 2 and the trouble that his filly Go for Glamour encountered.

Watching from an owner-trainer gallery above the finish line, Greely had a limited view of the race for 3-year-old fillies. What he missed was momentarily frightening to those who saw it. In quick succession, Go for Glamour was in tight quarters, may have collided with the rail, and was struck by the hooves of her rivals. She finished last of 12.

"When I saw the replay, I thought, 'I've never seen anything like it,'" Greely said. "She was bleeding everywhere."

Go for Glamour returned to California and was rested in preparation for Saturday's $750,000 American Oaks over 1 1/4 miles on turf. She has recovered from her injuries from the Kentucky Oaks, which included a cut foreleg and a cut on her right pastern, Greely said. She also lost two shoes.

The American Oaks will be the first start in a turf stakes for Go for Glamour, one of two fillies in the expected field of 14 who have no major-race experience on grass. The other is Kentucky Oaks runner-up Santa Catarina, who won the Hollywood Oaks June 14.

Last fall, Go for Glamour finished second in a maiden race on turf. Earlier this year, she was third in the Santa Anita Oaks and Fantasy Stakes. Owned by Andrea Pollack, she has won 2 of 9 starts and $145,500.

Go for Glamour disputed the pace in the Fantasy Stakes and may take a similar role in the American Oaks. Two other fillies who could be early factors are Dimitrova, the third-place finisher in the Irish 2000 Guineas on May 25, who will be making her U.S. debut, and Sand Springs, a front-running winner of the Grade 3 Regret Stakes at Churchill Downs on June 14.

Greely says he will be comfortable if Go for Glamour is near the front.

"I think she'll be close to the pace," he said. "I've got her to relax pretty good in her works. She really has a different stride on the turf."

Star Vega makes it into American Oaks

Star Vega, the winner of the Providencia Stakes at Santa Anita in April, has been added to the American Oaks field after the defection of Quero Quero because of an ankle injury.

On June 7, Quero Quero won the Honeymoon Breeders' Cup Handicap, a race in which Star Vega was ninth.

The American Oaks is the richest race on a weekend that includes five other stakes.

Friday's program features the $150,000 American Handicap over 1 1/8 miles on turf and the $100,000 Landaluce Stakes for 2-year-old fillies.

Candy Ride, an Argentine stakes winner who is undefeated in four starts, heads the American Handicap.

The Oaks is joined on Saturday's program by the $300,000 Triple Bend Breeders' Cup Handicap over seven furlongs and the $100,000 Royal Heroine Stakes for females over a mile on turf. Aldebaran was assigned top weight of 122 pounds for the seven-furlong Triple Bend, but he remains at trainer Bobby Frankel's base in New York and is likely to run in the Tom Fool on Friday at Belmont. Avanzado, the winner of the Palos Verdes Handicap at Santa Anita in January, is a probable starter, as are Bluesthestandard, Cayoke, Geronimo, Joey Franco, Kela, Medecis, Primerica, and Publication.

Sunday's feature is the $100,000 Flawlessly Stakes over a mile on turf for 3-year-old fillies. The race serves as a consolation of sorts for fillies not invited to the American Oaks.

Sundays will be movie days at Del Mar

Del Mar will present five feature movies and a documentary on Sunday evenings on the paddock's big screen during the upcoming meeting. Admission is free.

The program starts with "Phar Lap" on July 27, and is followed by "A Day at the Races" on Aug. 3, "Let It Ride" on Aug. 10, and "The Black Stallion" on Aug. 17.

There is no program on Aug. 24 because of an earlier post to accommodate the $1 million Pacific Classic.

On Aug. 31, the featured program is the premiere of a documentary chronicling a year in the racing stable of Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella.

The filmmakers, Bill Yahraus and Robin Rosenthal, and Mandella will make a public appearance after the presentation.

On the final Sunday of the meeting, "It Ain't Hay," starring Abbott and Costello, will complete the program.

Quanah County stumbles but seems okay

Quanah County, a 2-year-old filly trained by Jenine Sahadi, made a promising debut in Saturday's second race but gave viewers a scare at the finish when she stumbled badly.

Ridden by Alex Solis, Quanah County led throughout, winning by a length after five furlongs in 58.94 seconds. As she reached the finish, the filly appeared to switch leads and stumbled. She recovered in the next stride and appeared unhurt in the incident.

"She spooks from a lot of things," Sahadi said.

Quanah County was purchased for $77,000 at the Barretts March sale of 2-year-olds in training.

She is likely to surface in a stakes at Del Mar, possibly in the $150,000 Sorrento Stakes over 6 1/2 furlongs on Aug. 9.