09/12/2002 12:00AM

Tenpins only eligible for half the purse

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FLORENCE, Ky. - Many racing states, even the good ones, dedicate at least one day a year to statebred horses. California, New York, Maryland, Illinois, and others showcase homegrown product while doling out financial rewards to local owners and breeders.

Kentucky, however, has always remained above what might be termed selective protectionism. Industry leaders typically cite two primary reasons that Kentucky does not have a special day for statebreds: Kentucky-breds are widely regarded as being good enough to win open races anywhere, and supplemental funds for Kentucky-breds are sufficiently generous throughout the year to offset any need for a single program dedicated to statebreds.

Yet when the Kentucky Cup Classic is run Saturday at Turfway Park, the Grade 2 race will come about as close as any to being a race restricted to Kentucky-breds. Half of the $400,000 purse will come from the Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund, the supplemental pool that has had a major impact on Kentucky purses since the late 1980's.

Clearly, for an owner or trainer whose horse is not eligible for KTDF funds, the imbalance of the Classic purse provides an incentive not to run. Nevertheless, Don Winfree plans to run Tenpins despite the colt being a Michigan-bred who will compete for a $200,000 purse.

"This is the best race for him at the time," said Winfree. "I realize I could be leaving a whole lot of money on the table, but I really don't have a better spot for him."

This is the second year that the Classic purse has been evenly split between KTDF and association funds. In previous years, the KTDF made up only 20 or 30 percent of the purse, but last year the ratio went to 50-50.

"In working with the horsemen, we had to find a way to offset the expense of Kentucky Cup," said Turfway president Bob Elliston. "Two years ago, we spent about $400,000 more on Kentucky Cup purses than what our handle made for us that day. By using more of our KTDF funds last year, we cut that down in about half.

"We realize that because of the way the purse is now, we might lose a few Classic horses that aren't Kentucky-bred. There's some logic to that. Yet the overall viability of our day-to-day racing program is taking precedence in this particular situation. The good thing is we still believe the timing of the Classic is ideal in regard to the Breeders' Cup, and the purse is big enough to attract a high-quality field."

The Classic isn't the only Kentucky Cup race whose purse is largely comprised of restricted funds. The purse of the $200,000 Turfway Breeders' Cup consists of $50,000 from the KTDF and $75,000 from the Breeders' Cup.

Optimism business will rebound

In large part because the 2001 Kentucky Cup was run just 11 days after the terrorist attacks last fall, business was exceptionally poor. While all-sources handle on the 2000 Kentucky Cup was more than $8 million, the 2001 program drew less than $5.4 million.

Elliston said he is hopeful that a return to normalcy and a superb weather forecast for Saturday will allow Turfway to return to pre-9/11 levels. "Plus, we've got several very competitive betting races on the Kentucky Cup card," he said. "We're looking for a good day."

Lukas vs. Baffert in two races

The two winningest trainers in Kentucky Cup history, D. Wayne Lukas and Bob Baffert, will be back for more Saturday. Although neither has a starter in the Classic, each will be represented in three of the four other races - and they will oppose each other in two.

Those two matchups look fairly even. Although Baffert, with Vindication, may have the upper hand over Lukas (with Boston Park) in the Kentucky Cup Juvenile, the pair that Lukas has in the Sprint, Day Trader and Shah Jehan, might be a touch stronger than Baffert's duo of Ecstatic and Relentless Seller.

Both trainers stand solid chances in their other races: Baffert with Atlantic Ocean in the Juvenile Fillies, and Lukas with Magic Storm in the Turfway B.C.

Lukas leads all Kentucky Cup trainers with nine wins. Baffert is second with four, followed by Ken McPeek and Bob Holthus, with three apiece.

* If she can upset the Turfway B.C. in the same way she won the Juvenile Fillies two years ago, Miss Pickums not only will become the first horse to win two different Kentucky Cup races, but the first to win two Kentucky Cup races, period. No horse has won more than once in the series. Miss Pickums won the 2000 Juvenile Fillies at 26-1, longest in race history.

* Annual awards from the Kentucky Thoroughbred Media will be given to winning connections between races Saturday. Guided Tour was voted the Boston Harbor Award for top male horse in Kentucky in 2001, while Take Charge Lady was voted the Morris Code Award for top female horse.

* A Kentucky Cup handicapping seminar featuring the "Three Steves" will be held on the third floor Saturday at 11 a.m. Hall of Fame jockey and Turfway spokesman Steve Cauthen will be joined by Steve Crist and Steve Klein of Daily Racing Form at the half-hour session.