09/21/2004 12:00AM

A writer walks into a bar . . .


POMONA, Calif. - It's getting a little scary out there. Tensions seem to be running high. Maybe it's the sales. Maybe it's the weather. Maybe it is the looming prospect of spending a week in Texas just before Election Day.

For starters, there was the Keeneland uproar over the Japanese mystery buyer of that $8 million Storm Cat yearling on Sept. 14. The question has burned hotter than a Janet Jackson wardrobe change, amidst ongoing cries of righteous indignation from those who champion full disclosure.

At least no farm implements were brandished, like they were at Aqueduct last Friday where trainer Jennifer Pedersen, 41, was arrested and charged with misdemeanor third-degree menacing for allegedly going after a former employee, Juan Martinez, with a pitchfork. Fortunately, no one was hurt.

Unless you count feelings, which were on thin ice last Saturday at Turfway Park, where trainer D. Wayne Lukas was witnessed delivering a loud tirade in the direction of track officials over their decision to remove a set of unapproved blinkers being worn by the colt Storied Cat prior to the Kentucky Cup Juvenile. Lukas, who recently turned 69, later apologized for his outburst, which will no doubt help in mitigating the amount of the standard fine for a first-degree temper tantrum.

Now might be a good time for everyone to get a massage, consider yoga, or at the very least check prescription levels. In the meantime, as a hopefully helpful public service, here is a small contribution toward lightening the mood. Jokes!

Blame British jump jockey David Howard, if you must. Howard no longer competes, but he is still British, and his website at UKjockey.com offers an array of entertaining informational nuggets, along with a selection of thigh-slappers sent in by readers. For purposes of this family newspaper, R-rated nuggets will not be included (especially the one about the "bridal suite"), but talking horse jokes are always hard to resist:

* A man's car stalls on a country road. When he gets out to fix it, a horse in the nearby field comes alongside the fence and leans over.

"Your trouble is probably in the carburetor," says the horse.

Startled, the man jumps back and runs down the road until he meets a farmer, and excitedly tells him the story of the talking horse.

"Was it a large white horse with a black mark over the right eye?" asks the farmer.

"Yes, yes, that's the one!" the man replies.

"Oh, I wouldn't listen to him," says the farmer. "He doesn't know anything about cars."

* While giving last-minute instructions to his jockey, a trainer appeared to slip something into the horse's mouth just as a steward walked by.

"What was that?" inquired the steward.

"Oh nothing," the trainer replied. "Just a candy."

The trainer offered one to the steward and had one himself. The steward seemed satisfied and left the scene, leaving the trainer to continue his instructions.

"Just keep on the rail. You're on a dead cert. The only things that could pass you down the home straight is either me or that steward."

* The great racing writer Joe Palmer once related the tale of a man from Idaho who breezed into Kentucky with a 6-year-old horse who had never raced before. Entered in a race, the horse won easily and paid a whopping price. The stewards, though, did not like the look of it and questioned the owner of the horse.

"Is this horse unsound?" they inquired.

"Not a bit," said the owner.

"In that case, why have you never raced him before?" the stewards wondered.

"Well," the owner replied, "we couldn't even catch him until he was 5."

* A horse walked up to the high-roller window and plopped down a pile of money.

"I want to bet it all on myself to win the fifth," he said.

"I don't believe it!" said the astonished mutuel clerk.

"You don't believe what?" said the horse. "That I can talk?"

"No," the clerk replied. "I've got no problem with that. But you don't stand a chance of winning the race."

* A trainer met a jockey before an important steeplechase with the following instructions:

"All you have to remember with this horse is to shout 'Alley oop!' really loud right in his ear every time you approach a jump. Do that and you'll be fine."

The jockey thought the trainer was nuts, so when they came to the first hurdle he kept mum. The horse crashed straight through the center of the jump. At the second, the jockey had second thoughts and self-consciously whispered "Alley oop" at the take-off point. Again, the horse crashed straight through.

At the third, the jockey gave up and yelled, "Alley oop!" as loud as he could, and the horse sailed over without a problem. So it went for the rest of the race - the jockey yelling and the horse clearing fences with ease - although they could only finish third because of the problems early on.

When they came back, the trainer was fuming.

"What went wrong?" he demanded.

"Wrong?" replied the jockey. "Nothing's wrong with me. It's that bloody horse of yours. He must be deaf."

"Deaf? Deaf!" the trainer was livid. "He's not deaf, you stupid git. He's blind!"