11/15/2001 1:00AM

Turf Pick 3 more popular this time around

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Handle shot up 21 percent compared with last year on last weekend's Churchill Downs Simulcast Network Turf Pick 3 wagers. Combined handle on the Saturday and Sunday wagers was $247,398, up from $204,033 bet on the same weekend last year.

It was the first time the multi-track wager had been offered since last fall. Churchill Downs offered a pick three among its family of tracks for the first time in the spring of 2000.

The CDSN Turf Pick 3 - which consists of the 11th race from Calder, the 10th race from Churchill, and the fifth race from Hollywood Park - will be offered for the last two times this year on Saturday and Sunday. Churchill officials are planning to revive the bet again next spring, and may even offer a pick four that includes races from another of its tracks, Arlington Park.

Each of this year's first two turf pick threes paid handsomely because of longshot winners, averaging $1,118 per $1 bet.

Penrod eyes another upset

Trainer Steve Penrod is hoping that Casual Feat can upset the Mrs. Revere Stakes on Saturday, which would be the second time this year the 3-year-old filly has surprised in a stakes at Churchill.

Casual Feat won the Regret Stakes in the spring at 28-1.

"You get a lot more surprises the other way than you do this way," said Penrod. "There are a lot more that you have high hopes for that don't turn out to be worth a darn, so it's nice when one surprises you the other way."

Penrod, with 22 Churchill stakes wins, is fourth on the all-time trainer list, trailing Bill Mott, D. Wayne Lukas, and Shug McGaughey.

A Maryland monster?

Bob Manfuso, a former partner in the Maryland Jockey Club, is excited about Belterra, an Unbridled filly he owns and bred who will be one of the favorites in the Golden Rod Stakes here next Saturday.

Belterra, a Maryland-bred trained by Carl Nafzger, won her only two starts easily.

"She's not bad for a Howard County-bred, huh?" asked Manfuso, referring to the rural area west of Baltimore where his small breeding farm is located.

Manfuso and his brother Tommy were partners in Laurel and Pimlico with the late Frank De Francis before being bought out by the current owner, Joe De Francis, in the early 1990's. Manfuso became friendly with Nafzger when the trainer was at Pimlico for the 1990 Preakness with Unbridled.

Push for alternative gambling

Momentum continues to build for alternative gambling at Kentucky racetracks, according to recent reports in the local news media.

The earliest date for action is Jan. 8, when the Kentucky General Assembly convenes for its annual session.

Several attempts to land alternative gambling at tracks have failed in recent years, but like many states Kentucky is experiencing budget shortfalls and is seeking new sources of revenue.

* A field of at least seven is probable for the signature event of the meet, the $400,000 Clark Handicap. The Grade 2 Clark, a 1 1/8-mile race that will be renewed Friday, will have Include as a solid favorite. Other probables are Outofthebox, Scorpion, Connected, Da Devil, Storm Day, and Tahkodha Hills.