12/31/2001 1:00AM

Torch is passed in Schulhofer barn

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MIAMI - Since returning from bypass surgery two years ago, trainer Scotty Schulhofer began to cut back his workload. Beginning New Year's Day, Schulhofer will have cut it back completely.

Schulhofer, whose Hall of Fame training career spanned four decades, officially retired from training as of the new year, turning the reins over to his son Randy.

"I'm getting to the age where I'm tired of doing it all," Schulhofer said Monday from Aiken, S.C., where he was visiting his grandchildren. "Randy is going down as the trainer, I'm just going to manage things."

Schulhofer, 75, will still have a hand in the stable, acting as a stable manager of sorts. But Randy, and his wife, Laura, will handle the day-to-day duties.

"He's on my payroll now," Randy Schulhofer joked Monday outside his Gulfstream Park barn.

Two years ago, Schulhofer underwent bypass surgery, but Schulhofer said he is in good health these days.

"I feel good, I'm doing good," said Schulhofer, who will spend most of his time in Florida. "I'm 75 years old. It's time to take it easy a little bit and enjoy life. I enjoy the horses and everything, but getting up every morning bright and early . . . I just need to slow down a little bit."

His recovery from that surgery was buoyed by the presence of Lemon Drop Kid in his barn. In 1999, Lemon Drop Kid won the Belmont Stakes and Travers. The next year, at 4, Lemon Drop Kid won the Brooklyn, Suburban, Whitney, and Woodward and won an Eclipse Award as the champion handicap horse. Other champions trained by Schulhofer include Fly So Free, Mac Diarmida, Rubiano, and Smile.

Schulhofer often said that Lemon Drop Kid was the best horse he ever trained.

After riding steeplechase horses from 1950 to 1962, Schulhofer began training Thoroughbreds in 1962 for Tartan Farms, replacing the retired John Nerud. After four years, Schulhofer opened a public stable. With the exception of the fall of 1982, when he served as the private trainer for Harbor View Farm, Schulhofer maintained a public stable.

According to Daily Racing Form statistics, Schulhofer won 1,119 races from 7,157 starters. He also had 1,015 seconds and 913 thirds and his horses earned $52,245,076 in purses.

Schulhofer won the Belmont Stakes twice, with Colonial Affair (1993) and Lemon Drop Kid (1999), the Breeders' Cup Juvenile with Fly So Free (1990), and the Breeders' Cup Sprint with Smile (1986). In 1978, he won 10 straight races with Mac Diarmida, who won the Eclipse Award as champion turf horse that year.

Other top horses trained by Schulhofer included Cryptoclearance, Scan, Sewickley, Shared Interest, Unaccounted For, and World Appeal.

"I enjoyed it all, it's been a lot of fun," Schulhofer said, hard-pressed to name a highlight. "Winning the Belmont Stakes, Mac Diarmida winning the [D.C.] International, it goes on and on. You just feel it's an accomplishment every time you win a race."

As much enjoyment as Schulhofer got out of the game, his most disheartening moment came in November when his prized 3-year-old filly Exogenous died a few days after falling and hitting her head during the post parade of the Breeders' Cup Distaff. Exogenous was a multiple Grade 1-winning filly who looked to have a bright future.

"Yes, it was very devastating, it took a long time to get over," Schulhofer said. "That's part of being a horse trainer."

With victories in the Gazelle Handicap and Beldame - both Grade 1 events - Exogenous figures to be a finalist for an Eclipse Award as the nation's leading 3-year-old filly.

"When you look at the way things kind of turned out she's done as much as any of the rest of them and more," Schulhofer said. "The way [the Distaff] was run she would have been much the best. She was doing so good and just getting at the top of her game."

Vernon Heath, who owned Exogenous, recently purchased Blueformer, a half-brother to Exogenous by Dynaformer, from Starlight Stable and trainer Ken McPeek. He finished second in his debut at Calder on Dec. 8.

Randy Schulhofer, 40, briefly went out on his own in 1997 before returning as his father's assistant in the spring of 1999. He will aim for his first stakes win with Windsong, who is scheduled to run in Friday's $100,000 Honey Fox Handicap at Gulfstream.