06/24/2001 11:00PM

Weekend offered multicolored picture


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - It was the kind of weekend that made a red-blooded racing fan want to be a dozen places at once. The world was hardly big enough to hold all of the action. Simulcasting is great, and the Internet helps keep the brain in the game. But there is nothing like being there, unless it's being everywhere.

It would have been a kick to have been at Hanshin Race Course on Sunday afternoon, Japanese time, to watch T.M. Opera O, especially since he was upset by an Irish-bred runner named Meisho Doto (originally called Meish O'Doto, of the Killarney O'Dotos). This was unusual, because T.M. Opera O is not only the reigning Japanese Horse of the Year, he is also the world's richest racehorse, with more than $14 million in earnings, compared with Cigar's measly $9.9 million. But just like Cigar, T.M. Opera O is mortal.

After going 8 for 8 last year, he has lost two of three starts in 2001.

Then there was Lone Star Park in Grand Prairie, near Dallas, where the Saturday afternoon crowd got to see that piece of machinery known as Hallowed Dreams win for the 23rd time in 24 starts. Lloyd Romero, her trainer and co-owner, predicted Hallowed Dreams would set a world's record for five furlongs on the grass. Apparently, just winning is no longer enough. She missed the mark by a bit more than a second, but if that mattered, none of her fans seemed disappointed. They just keep repeating her amazing mantra, updated now to "23 for 4, 23 for 4, 23 for 24 . . . ."

Since human behavior is also a racetrack spectator sport, the place to be early Sunday afternoon was beautiful Longchamp on the western outskirts of Paris, where the humans were misbehaving with exquisite Gallic flair.

First, the mutuel clerks called a wildcat strike and "elected to down tools," in the delightful parlance of the visiting British press. Since the large offtrack betting network was not affected, race course managers decided to go ahead with the racing. This apparently did not translate well to those Parisian punters who had bothered to show up at Longchamp. A cluster of rowdies jumped the gun on Bastille Day and forced their way onto the course, enraged over being deprived of their right to liberty, equality, and a shot at the tierce. Management had no choice but to shut the place down.

At the far more peaceful San Joaquin County Fair, also on Sunday afternoon, the closing-day program of the Stockton racing meet lured Black Ruby back to the California circuit after a few warm-up runs in northern Nevada. Black Ruby, as most discerning fans recall, is the leading money-winning mule of all time. She is T.M. Opera O with twice the ears and half the patience. Black Ruby has won more than 40 races and $100,000. She is a demigod, a superstar. Her fans follow her from track to track.

Put it this way: If Black Ruby had been racing at Longchamp on Sunday, there would have been no cancelation. Betting or not, people show up just to watch Black Ruby run.

No, it was impossible to cover all the bases last weekend. But if you were Ted Carr, sitting smack in the geographic middle of all the North American action, the view on the TV screen was just fine.

Carr manages Diamond A Farm near Lexington for Jerry Ford. Before it was Diamond A, it was the Brookside Farm of the late Allen Paulson. Carr raised the foals and tended to the mares and stallions for Paulson, as well, which is why he gave a whoop on Saturday and a holler on Sunday when two of his babies, all grown up now, romped to big race wins in New England and California.

Hap, a palomino wannabe, kicked it off Saturday at Rockingham in the $200,000 New Hampshire Sweepstakes Handicap, winning by seven lengths. On Sunday, the imposing Astra held up her end of the continent, winning the $250,000 Beverly Hills Handicap by four lengths. Both of them came from the 1996 foal crop of Theatrical.

"Man, they ran big, both of them," Carr said Monday from atop his pony at Diamond A. "Hap came out with that flaxen mane and tail, but he was smallish. Not nearly as big as most of the foals that mares has had," Carr noted, referring to Hap's dam, Committed. "His sister, Pharma, is a big mare. Hap may be small, but he runs like he's big."

Committed is a solid bay, and Theatrical is bay as well, which hardly explains how Hap came out a little golden boy.

"Theatrical gets a lot of that, and I don't know where it comes from," Carr said. "He gets a lot of chrome, a lot of chestnuts. There's something going on somewhere. Now Astra, she's a bay with a little white marking here and there."

They could be painted red, white, and blue, and they still would be worth the price of admission. Carr couldn't be prouder, even though he must enjoy them now from afar.

"That's okay," Carr said. "Just life, I guess. Anyway, Mr. Ford bought Committed, and she's still here. As a matter of fact, she's got a lovely full sister to Hap right now. She's a dandy. And she's a bay."