06/26/2002 11:00PM

Trainers threaten entry boycott

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Frustrated by the rising costs of workmen's compensation rates in California, a group of trainers on Thursday demanded financial support from racetracks and the Thoroughbred Owners of California, and contemplated conducting a boycott of the entry box next week to attract attention to their cause.

The group of approximately 45 trainers, which met Thursday on the backstretch at Hollywood Park, have asked representatives of the racetracks and TOC to meet with them on Saturday to discuss ways to offset rising insurance costs.

Many of the trainers present at Thursday's one-hour meeting said they intend to postpone entering horses on Saturday for Wednesday's program at Hollywood Park until presentations have been made by the TOC and racetracks. They stopped short of calling for a strike.

"Until we don't run, we won't get the racetrack's attention, the TOC's attention, and the state's attention," said trainer Mark Glatt.

With no private insurance companies willing to step forward to offer workmen's compensation policies, trainers have been forced to buy policies from the government-backed State Fund, which charges substantially higher rates than private companies. More than 300 trainers bought policies with State Fund in March and another group of 450 trainers have policies with private companies that expire on Sunday, according to Ed Halpern, the executive director of the California Thoroughbred Trainers.

The State Fund policies that go into effect on Monday will charge $48.69 per $100 in payroll for backstretch employees and up to $105.66 per jockey mount. Many trainers will pay less, however, depending on their previous history of claims. Many trainers are used to paying far less than those policy charges, with some paying just $25 or less for backstretch employee coverage.

Halpern said that discussions continue with private companies, but that he is pessimistic that private policies can be made available in the near future. "I'll believe it when I see it," he said.

Emergency legislation that would use marketing and stabling and vanning funds to offset costs has been introduced in Sacramento, but has yet to reach the governor's desk.

"We don't want to strike, but we need someone to help us," trainer Julio Canani said at the meeting.

Trainer Vladimir Cerin urged the racetracks and TOC "to give us a plan." At the meeting, he urged trainers to stick together and not enter horses until after the meeting on Saturday.

"If someone enters at 8:30 a.m., then we know where we stand with our fellow trainers," he said.

Officer ready to go again (for awhile)

Officer, a major stakes winner at 2 who was sidelined before the Triple Crown this year, is preparing to resume training, according to Richard Mulhall, the racing manager for The Thoroughbred Corp.

Any comeback will not be for a lengthy campaign. Mulhall said that Officer will go to stud in 2003, following substantial interest from breeding farms.

"I think he will go to stud next year," he said. "I'm having a lot of inquiries. We'll try to bring him back pretty soon."

Mulhall said that Officer was swimming, which is typically part of a training routine before horses return to the racetrack.

A winner of 6 of 9 starts and $804,090, Officer has not started since an easy six-length win in the Zany Tactics Stakes for California-breds on April 7, his lone start of the year. Last year, he won four stakes, including the Grade 1 Champagne Stakes and Grade 2 Del Mar Futurity.

In the days before the Lexington Stakes at Keeneland in April, Officer was sidelined with a soft-tissue injury. At the time, trainer Bob Baffert said nothing was torn, "but it's the kind of thing that if you go on, you've got problems."

Some new Baffert 2-year-olds

Mulhall said The Thoroughbred Corp. has a trio of 2-year-olds trained by Baffert he is anxious to start in coming weeks. Macho Image, who finished second in his debut June 9, is nearing a return. Hot, a half-brother to Xtra Heat, is nearing his first start, following a five-furlong workout in 58.60 seconds earlier this year. "He looks like he might be able to run," Mulhall said.

Kafwain, a maiden winner June 22, may return in the $100,000 Hollywood Juvenile Championship over six furlongs on July 20.

Clerical Error will race in U.S.

Clerical Error, second in her stakes debut in France on June 2, has been purchased by Paul Reddam and will make her U.S. debut in the $500,000 American Oaks on July 6, trainer Craig Dollase said.

The transaction was expected to be completed on Thursday, after Clerical Error passed a veterinary examination earlier this week. An Irish-bred, Clerical Error has one win in three starts, and was second in the Group 2 Prix de Sandringham in France.

The American Oaks, over 1 1/4 miles on turf for 3-year-old fillies, will be run for the first time next week. The field will include shippers from Europe and throughout the United States, and locally based fillies.

On Thursday, Portella and Tomori, the first two finishers in the German 1000 Guineas, were withdrawn, while Mariensky, who was group stakes placed earlier this year but sixth in the French Oaks earlier this month, was invited. Mariensky has been transferred to Christophe Clement in New York.

The race is led by Megahertz, the winner of the Grade 2 Honeymoon Breeders' Cup Handicap here on June 8.