11/17/2003 12:00AM

Walden assistant goes out on his own

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Dave Fortner, whose many years as the top assistant to Elliott Walden enabled him to work with such major stars as Victory Gallop and Menifee, has announced that he is opening a public stable, effective Jan. 1.

Fortner, 42, said his age was a major factor in the decision to begin his own stable, which initially will be based at Trackside in Louisville. "I didn't want to wake up some day with regrets about never trying," said Fortner.

Fortner lives year-round in Louisville with his wife, Susan, and although he traveled to other circuits with Walden's top string in the mid-1990's, he has stayed home in recent years to oversee Walden's local string in Kentucky.

Walden said he is fully supportive of Fortner. "He's a tremendous horseman and he deserved the opportunity," said Walden.

Fortner could often be seen around the Walden barn doing just about everything, including exercising some of the stable's top horses. Fortner grew up around horses in Ohio, and said he "always wanted to do this. I really appreciate what Elliott's done for me, and hopefully I can use my experience with him to make a good career for myself."

Casual Look retires to mate with Mineshaft

Casual Look, fifth as the favorite in the Mrs. Revere Stakes on Saturday, was retired Monday by owner Will Farish, said trainer Neil Howard.

Casual Look, winner of the Group 1 English Oaks in May, will be bred to a more famous horse recently retired to Farish's Lane's End Farm: Mineshaft, the heavy favorite for 2003 Horse of the Year.

"She came out of the race perfect and now Mr. Farish thought her future was in the breeding shed," said Howard.

Casual Look, by Red Ransom, won 2 of 12 starts and just over $600,000.

Two dead heats on one card - and Day in both

In a racing rarity, there were two dead heats for win here Friday - and Pat Day was involved in both.

In the fifth race, Shadow Hawk, ridden by Day, finished on even terms with Lord North. And in the ninth race, Day rode Hero's Tribute to a dead-heat win with Great Bloom.

"I can't recall two dead heats on a day," said Day, a 30-year veteran. "And I certainly don't know of a rider that was part of two in a day."

Is it a miscalculation?

Several callers from out of state complained Friday about the way Kentucky tracks calculate payoffs on pick threes in the case of a dead heat.

Instead of calculating separate prices on two winning tickets in the same manner that, for instance, the win pool would be calculated in case of a dead heat, the winning horses are lumped together, regardless of odds.

The subject arose after the dead heat occurred in the fifth race between Shadow Hawk, a 1-5 shot, and Lord North, an 8-1 shot. Clearly, the rolling pick three payoffs would have been substantially higher for Lord North, but they were suppressed by the major amount of wagering on Shadow Hawk.

The payoffs were $25.60 after the fifth race, $28.80 after the sixth, and $57.40 after the seventh. In other states, including New York and California, pick three payoffs involving dead-heat winners are calculated separately for more equitable returns.

However, in more complex multi-race wagers, such as the pick four or pick six, the payoffs also are lumped together in virtually all jurisdictions.

'Father' Flint gets a winner

Trainer Bernie Flint got a huge kick out of Day winning the eighth race for him Friday aboard Ask the Lord, a horse Flint had claimed in the horse's last start.

A beaming Flint was very much prepared for the occasion: He wore a clerical collar and looked very priestly in the winner's circle.

"Pat Day and Ask the Lord, how could you not?" asked Flint, referring to Day's well-known devotion to the Christian faith.

Trainer Demeritte suspended

Trainer Larry Demeritte has been suspended 30 days, effective Monday, after one of his horses tested positive for a banned medication after a second-place finish in an Oct. 3 race at Keeneland.

The subject horse, El Curioso, tested positive for pyrilamine, an antihistamine that is commonly used in training but is not allowed for race day. Purse redistributions have been ordered.

McKee resumes riding after spill

John McKee took off his last few mounts Friday after his mount in the fifth race, Tropical Storm, threw him in the post parade.

McKee had a sore shoulder but was able to resume riding Saturday. Tropical Storm was uninjured, McKee got back aboard, and they completed the race, finishing fourth.

Fire Slam makes splash

Fire Slam made the short list of promising 2-year-olds at this meet, winning a seven-furlong allowance Saturday as the favorite. Trained by David Carroll, Fire Slam is now 2 for 2, having won a maiden race in equally impressive fashion last month at Keeneland.

Fire Slam is owned by Stan Fulton, a businessman who lives in Las Vegas.

Carroll is having a terrific meet, winning with 4 of 8 starts, the highest percentage for any trainer with that many wins.

Skip Away's half-brother likes it here

Skip Away, who earned over $9.6 million, might not have been too fond of Churchill, but at least his little brother can win here.

Irish Legacy, a 4-year-old half-brother to Skip Away, was up in the final strides to win the sixth race Saturday, a $20,000 claiming race for nonwinners of two. The victory was only the second in 13 career starts for Irish Legacy, a gelding by Storm Cat out of Ingot Way.

Skip Away, by Skip Trial out of Ingot Way, was a major disappointment in his only two starts at Churchill, running 12th in the 1996 Kentucky Derby and sixth in the 1998 Breeders' Cup Classic.

Lumpkins back in Kentucky

Jason Lumpkins, the leading rider last winter at both the Turfway Park holiday meet and winter-spring meet, is returning to ride in Kentucky after spending the last few months on his former regular circuit in northern California.

Agent Steve Elzey said Lumpkins will ride all winter at Turfway, which runs Nov. 30 through April 1.

* Ready and Tough, a 4 3/4-length winner of an entry-level allowance for 2-year-old fillies here Sunday for owner Jay Em Ess Stable, probably will not run back in the $200,000 Golden Rod Stakes on closing day, said trainer Paul McGee. "We'll probably wait for Turfway or Gulfstream," he said.

* The prospective field for Saturday's $150,000 Cardinal Handicap numbered about 11 as of Monday, led by Bien Nicole, Riskaverse, Quick Tip, and Dyna Da Wyna. The 1 1/8-mile turf race is the lone stakes of the coming weekend here.