Preston Burch, the Virginia gentleman who wrote the book on his profession - "The Training of Thoroughbreds" - died Monday night in Middleburg, at 93. Probably looking forward.

In the fall of 1973, Post racing columnist Gerald Strine wrote on the eve of Bowie's first annual Preston Burch Handciap:

"An elderly woman once asked Preston Burch how he stayed so young.

"Nothing to it," the Middleburg octogenarian replied. 'I just try to have five or six babies each year. They're guaranteed to keep you active and interested.'

"The babies Mister Burch referred to are thoroughbred weanlings and yearlings.

"Knowing there will be a new crop in the fields around here each spring is what helps keep you going and makes life so enjoyable,' he says. 'They're wonderful to look forward to . . . I wouldn't miss it.'

"Mister Burch has been looking at new foals for more than 60 years. Horses have been a way of life to this Hall of Fame trainer whose father, William Preston Burch, also earned a plaque in the Saratoga museum and whose son, Elliott, is odds-on to wind up there off his Rokeby record.

"It was in 1902 when Mister Burch left school for the races. Born in Augusta, Ga., in 1884, he recalls that 'mother followed father as long as she could stand it. Then she settled down in Washington . . .'"

And Mr. Burch settled down to training for some of teh Old Dominion's great stables, peaking at Isabel Dodge Sloane's Brookmeade at Upperville in the 1940s and '50s, leading the nation's trainers in purses won in 1950 ($651,399). Mr. Burch, whose Middleburg home once was a coach stop between Washington and Winchester leaves his wife Mary and sons Elliott and William. Services today will be in private . . .