08/24/2002 12:00AM

Weather puts a damper on big day


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Saturday's soggy weather, which forced the day's five turf races to the main track and which limited attendance, was expected to take a dramatic toll on New York Racing Association's (NYRA) business for Travers Day. Before first post, NYRA officials were hoping the crowd would reach the low 40,000's.

Last year, under ideal summer conditions, Travers Day produced a record crowd of 60,486 and a record total handle of $34,529,273.

Saturday's handle undoubtedly took a huge hit when turf racing was canceled, resulting in a slew of scratches. The Ballston Spa took the worst of it when seven of the 10 horses entered were scratched.

"We'll be down significantly [in handle]," Bill Nader, NYRA's senior vice president said.

Final numbers weren't available at press time.

Between races only a smattering of hearty souls stood on the track apron, braving the unrelenting rain and the cool temperatures, which barely reached the low 60's by first post at 12:30 p.m. Before each race, the crowd swelled and umbrellas were visible from the top of the stretch to the clubhouse turn.

By 1:15 p.m. Saturday, .80 inches of rain had fallen and a decision to move the Fourstardave and the Ballston Spa Breeders' Cup from the grass to the main track was made.

In the morning, the three other grass races on the 11-race card were switched to the dirt.

"We have eight-tenths of an inch and climbing," said NYRA track superintendent Jerry Porcelli. "We expect over an inch by the time the [turf stakes] would run. We walked the course and it had started to pond and the top dressing was slick. We didn't think it was safe."

NYRA's guaranteed $1 million pick four included both the Ballston Spa and Fourstardave. Surprisingly, more was wagered on this year's pick four - $1,369,444 - than last year's $1,210,902.

Prado on amazing hot streak

When Edgar Prado was dominating the Maryland circuit, it was not uncommon for him to string together multiple-win days. But Prado's accomplishments here the last week have caught even him by surprise.

Heading into Saturday's card, Prado had posted four four-win days on the last five Saratoga racing cards. During that span, he had ridden 16 winners from 34 mounts (a .470 winning percentage) and opened up an eight-win lead, 44-36, over seven-time Saratoga kingpin Jerry Bailey.

"A little bit," Prado said when asked if he was surprised by his recent surge. "We've been working real hard; nothing's changed. I've been riding the same quality of horses and I've been riding well."

Prado first came to Saratoga in the summer of 1999 and finished second in the rider standings with 36 wins. He said the Saratoga riding title is one he covets.

"What is meant to be is meant to be," Prado said. "I'd really love to win it, and I'm working hard for it, and trying to do the best I can."

Prado may be presented with an interesting dilemma come the end of the meet. He is the regular rider of Harlan's Holiday, who is scheduled to make his next start in the $500,000 Pennsylvania Derby at Philadelphia Park on Sept. 2 - closing day at Saratoga.

Would Prado stay at Saratoga to chase a riding title and perhaps a Spa record for wins or go to Philadelphia Park?

"We'll think about it when we get closer," Prado said. "You work hard to get to this level to ride good horses. If you're not riding good horses, what's the point to be leading rider?"

Macho Uno Arlington bound

Macho Uno, the 2000 Juvenile champion, will have plenty of time to get accustomed to Arlington Park - site of this year's World Thoroughbred Championships - under the plan trainer Joe Orseno has mapped out for him.

Orseno said Macho Uno will ship to Arlington in mid-September and will run in the $400,000 Arlington Washington Park Handicap on Sept. 29 and then remain in Arlington Heights leading up to the Breeders' Cup Classic on Oct. 26.

"What we're doing is what we think is best for him," Orseno said Saturday. "I've talked about it with [owner Frank Stronach] and we're going at this with a plan. Hopefully, everything and everybody will cooperate. We really feel we're going to give him the best shot we can to have him peak the last weekend in October."

What makes this plan a little more palatable is that Tim Mechanic, the exercise rider who got on Macho Uno in Florida, is working at Arlington and will help take care of Macho Uno in Chicago.

Macho Uno began the year with victories in an allowance race and the Massachusetts Handicap before finishing third in the Suburban Handicap and fourth in the Whitney. Orseno said Macho Uno came out of the Whitney with a case of the thumps, an electrolyte imbalance that can constrict a horse's breathing.

Orseno said Macho Uno has recovered from the thumps and has been training regularly.

Peppermint Kid breaks down in work

Peppermint Kid, once viewed as the heir apparent to champion Lemon Drop Kid by his owners Laddie Dance and Jeanie Vance, broke his left foreleg during a workout Saturday morning and had to be euthanized on the track.

Peppermint Kid, a son of Kingmambo who cost $650,000 at auction, was working in preparation for an allowance race later in the meet and then perhaps a shot at the Jamaica Handicap on Sept. 22 at Belmont Park. He was approaching the quarter pole when he broke down, hurling exercise rider George Martens about 20 yards forward. Martens was not injured.

"It was a severe breakdown," trainer Randy Schulhofer said. "The highs are mighty high and the lows are pretty low. That's the way it goes in this game."

Peppermint Kid had a record of 2-1-1 from nine starts and earned $71,720.

* Angel Cordero, the agent for John Velazquez, was fined $200 by the stewards for failure to tend to business in a proper manner. He was fined for taking off Realitize in Saturday's first race. According to NYRA steward Dave Hicks, Velazquez did not want to ride all 11 races on Saturday's card.

- additional reporting by David Grening