06/01/2003 11:00PM

Wanted: Trainers title


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Dale Romans could be a little more discreet about it. After tying for the training title at the last three Churchill Downs spring meets, Romans has made clear his desire to win outright this spring. For an example of Romans's ambition to win, look no further than Wednesday's Churchill card. He has six horses in action on the 10-race program.

Romans holds a comfortable 18-13 lead over Bernie Flint atop the Churchill standings through 27 of 52 spring meet programs. Romans will start two horses Wednesday in a $52,500 allowance that occupies the customary ninth race feature slot. Cornelio Velasquez will ride front-running Play It Out, and Pat Day has the mount on stalker M B Sea.

Either horse appears capable of victory. Play It Out, owned by Richard and Nancy Kaster, has been erratic but tends to get brave on an uncontested lead, while M B Sea, owned by Mike Bruder, has been a reliable but tough-luck sort who figures to get through this third-level allowance condition before too long.

Gold Dollar, third in a recent 7 1/2-furlong race under these same conditions, is among the top threats to the uncoupled Romans duo.

The option to run for $62,500 claiming also is part of the feature-race conditions, and the trainers of three of the seven starters went that route. Freon Flier, a stakes winner who most recently won for a $40,000 tag, looks the best of that group.

The other Romans starters on Wednesday are Steelyeyed in the second, Freedom Walk in the third, Ravish Me in the seventh, and Tappy in the 10th.

Hot McKee nears journeyman status

Apprentice John McKee was the riding star of the weekend, winning three races on Sunday and the Saturday nightcap with 17-1 shot Mae Hap.

One of McKee's Sunday winners came in the second race, aboard Machine to Tower, a 7-year-old gelding who won for the 18th time. Machine to Tower, by Technology, has changed hands several times throughout his career and now is trained by Jack Wilkinson.

McKee, 21, is due to lose his five-pound apprentice allowance later this month. His first career victory came last May 27 at River Downs.

Expect a long day here Saturday

Although post time for the Belmont Stakes has been pushed back to 6:38 p.m. Eastern on Saturday, Churchill is sticking with its normal 10-race schedule before the Belmont simulcast. That means the live races will be spaced about 35 minutes apart before the Belmont, which is not be offered as part of the Churchill card. Fans can still bet the race, though, through Belmont Park's commingled pools.

Churchill is planning a variety of promotions Saturday to celebrate the Belmont, including giveaways of stickers and lapel pins that back Funny Cide in his attempt to become the first Triple Crown winner in 25 years.

Sunday, bobblehead replicas of Seattle Slew will be given away with the first 7,500 paid admissions.

Senor Swinger returns to turf

Senor Swinger, fifth in the Preakness after winning the Crown Royal American Turf in his first and only start on grass, is scheduled to return to the grass Saturday in the $200,000 Jefferson Cup.

Trained by Bob Baffert, Senor Swinger breezed five furlongs Monday in a bullet 58.60 seconds over a fast main track. Senor Swinger figures as a solid favorite in the Grade 3 Jefferson Cup for 3-year-olds, which is run at 1 1/8 miles. Other possible starters include Domestic Dispute, Outta Here, and maybe another six or seven others.

* Take Charge Lady, who has not entered to race since being scratched from the Louisville Breeders' Cup on May 2 because of a foot bruise, worked a bullet half-mile of 46.40 seconds on Monday under jockey Shanne Sellers. Trainer Ken McPeek is considering running Take Charge Lady in the Grade 2 Fleur de Lis at Churchill on June 14.