10/30/2002 1:00AM

Workers' comp plan delayed to Nov. 15

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ARCADIA, Calif. - An insurance program that would reduce workers' compensation rates paid by California trainers will not go into effect by Friday, the date that racing officials had hoped it would be implemented.

Instead, they are hoping that the program can be in place by Nov. 15, which could lead to widespread savings for trainers who have paid higher rates for the compulsory insurance this year.

The last private company left the workers' compensation marketplace in February, forcing many trainers to buy expensive policies from the government-backed State Fund. Another large group of trainers had private policies expire in July.

Since then, racing executives have sought a company that would offer lower rates.

The new policies will be administered by American International Group and were first presented to trainers in September.

"All the final pieces seem to be falling into place," said Ed Halpern, the executive director of the California Thoroughbred Trainers.

One concern has been an early termination penalty that State Fund may assess against those trainers who cancel policies to join American International.

"There are people working with State Fund to get it waived," Halpern said. "There is some optimism."

Halpern said there appears to be sufficient support from horsemen for the AIG program to be launched. "I'm depending on the brokers, and they tell me there seems to be enough participation," he said. "The program would start on Nov. 15. We've been waiting for the insurance company to process the paperwork.

"They're not in as big of a hurry as we are. It's a few million in premiums in a billion-dollar business."

Stevens filming until December

Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens will be away from riding until Dec. 26 while he is under contract to play the role of George Woolf in a 2003 movie based on the popular Seabiscuit book.

"The Breeders' Cup was my last day for a while," Stevens said on Wednesday.

Next week, Stevens will leave for Kentucky, where filming will take place at Keeneland and other locations. Filming will continue in California in early December. Stevens has the Dec. 26 opening day of the Santa Anita winter-spring meeting as a date for a likely return to riding.

The movie co-stars Jeff Bridges and Tobey Maguire, who played Spiderman earlier this year.

"It's exciting, and I'm working with some great people," he said.

Stevens said that he intends to stay fit during the break in racing and that the time off could help his knees, which have troubled him over the last 10 years. Stevens missed most of Del Mar this summer because of a knee injury.