A groan went up from the crowd of 10,288 racing fans yesterday at Bowie Race Course when Buckfinder, the 3-to-10 favorite, broke through the starting gate before the running of the featured Preston M. Burch Handicap. Race track lore has it that breaking through the gate prior to a race is the kiss of death.

Loaded back into the gate, Buckfinder went with the pace to the far turn while on the outside and appeared the winner at the three-sixteenth pole. However, Chati, ridden by Donald Brumfield, ranged up on the outside with a bold rush and wore down the Frank Whitely-trained choice and drew away through the stretch for a three-length victory in 1:42 4/5 for 1-1/16 miles. Buckfinder held on for second by nearly five lenghts over Revivalist.

Chati is a 5-year-old horse by Terrible Tiger and is trained by James G. Murphy. The bay returned $12.80 to win despite earnings of more than $70,000 prior to yesterday's $25,000 added handicap.

Buckfinder's jockey Vince Bracciale said. "The No. 6 horse kicked the back door of our stall and my horse broke through. It didn't help. My horse ran good."

Apprentice Thomas Kupfer added to his leading total of wins for the meeting by booting home four more winners. The 19-year-old brought his mark to 37.

The sun-bathed crowd pushed $1,216,318 through the betting machines, a slight rise over the same day last year.