10/31/2001 12:00AM

Thistledown

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NORTH RANDALL, Ohio - Three of the nation's top eight trainers in number of wins are racing at the recently opened Cranwood meet here. They are Jerry Hollendorfer, who is fourth in the national standings; Dale Baird, who is seventh; and Gary Johnson, who is eighth.

Hollendorfer, a native of nearby Bath, Ohio, has 25 horses on the grounds under the care of Tom Roberts and leads the standings with eight wins from 15 starts. Baird has saddled three winners from 13 chances and Johnson has won with two of 22 starters.

This is not the first time Hollendorfer has campaigned here. In 1992 he sent a string of 20 horses here with Roberts in charge of the operation, and won the title. Baird is stabled at Mountaineer Park and runs horses here on a daily basis, while Johnson is a hometown boy who has won 17 of the last 19 meetings here.

For the first time the Cranwood meet will run until Dec. 31, and that may boost business. Mountaineer Park, Thistledown's nearest Thoroughbred competitor, has gone to a four-day racing schedule and will close for three weeks in December. Horses will be allowed to remain on the grounds at Mountaineer and that should be a big shot in the arm for the local entry box.

After a six-year courtship, jockeys Rhonda Swan and Scott Spieth tied the knot in the Thistledown winner's circle before the races on Halloween.