11/15/2001 1:00AM

Time was finally right for Knight Cover


PORTLAND, Ore. - Back in 1996, when Knight Cover began to show promise as a 3-year-old, owner and breeder Dr. Bob Seapy and trainer Steve Fisher conspired to maximize their enjoyment of the young gelding's career.

"The best horse that Doc had owned to that point was Knight Cover's sire, Knight in Savannah," said Fisher. "He was a brilliant sprinter, but he only lasted through two years and 11 races. Doc wanted Knight Cover to have an extended career, and he told me to take care of him accordingly."

Fisher did just that, refusing to race his charge unless he was 100 percent. As a consequence, Knight Cover has started only 36 times in six years.

Also as a consequence, Knight Cover has been one of the best and most consistent sprinters in the Northwest, winning 13 times and finishing in the top three 29 times despite racing almost exclusively in stakes ranks. His record at Portland Meadows has been even more impressive, as he has compiled a 10-7-1 mark from 20 starts while winning eight stakes. His accomplishments earned him Oregon-bred horse of the year honors in 1996, and he was named the state's top older horse from 1997 through 1999.

"He gave Doc and me a lot of pleasure," said Fisher. "Every time we sent him out there, we knew he'd give it his all. He usually had to concede a lot of weight, and a lot of times he raced without a prep because they couldn't fill allowance races for him, but he always tried.

"I credit Doc, because his big thing was always to do what is right for the horse. Knight Cover had chronic ankle problems throughout his career, but Doc never wanted to run him unless his ankles were good, and that meant a lot of vacations. He never wanted to cheapen the horse up, and over the last couple of years he has asked me several times if it was time to retire him. I always told him that the horse would tell us when that time comes."

Knight Cover, who is now 8, finally gave his connections that message over the past several weeks when his accumulated infirmities prevented him from training with his usual zeal. The message was heard, and Knight Cover will be officially retired in a ceremony at the track this Saturday.

"It will be sad to see him go, but Doc has found a good home for him and we know he'll be well taken care of," said Fisher.

Knight Cover has been given to former rider Kathy Mayo, who rode the gelding to five wins over this track. He will be boarded at a farm in Oregon City along with his greatest rival, Flying Huey, who was given to Mayo upon his retirement last year by owner Delmer Webb. Knight Cover and Flying Huey met eight times at Portland Meadows and finished one-two on seven of those occasions, with Knight Cover winning three and Flying Huey four.

"They'll have a lot to reminisce about when they are standing out in the pasture," said Fisher. "I'm glad it worked out this way."

Jones out with broken foot

Leading rider Clark Jones will be out of action from six to eight weeks after suffering a broken bone in his left foot on Saturday morning.

"I was waiting to work a horse and he scrambled over and kicked me on the foot," reported the rider. "I thought it was just bruised, so I rode four horses on Saturday before it got to hurting so much I couldn't continue."

Jones was alone atop the standings at the time of his injury, but Juan Gutierrez took advantage of his absence on Sunday and Monday to move into a tie at 10 wins apiece.

Tough spots the only ones left

Provo, a $900 yearling bargain for Murdock Stevenson out of the 1999 Oregon Thoroughbred Breeders Association sale, won for the seventh time in 10 starts on Saturday, when he bested allowance rivals by a length after five furlongs in 1:00.20. A 3-year-old Washington-bred, he is entirely out of conditions and isn't eligible for the remaining 3-year-old stakes on the schedule, leaving trainer Roger Stevenson with something of a dilemma.

"I think my only chance to run him now will be against unrestricted older horses, and those races are awfully salty," he said. "The party may be over."