Shawn Payton, Maryland's leading apprentice jockey, said he will leave Laurel Race Course this week to begin riding at Remington Park in Oklahoma.

Payton, 18, said he has grown discouraged over a lack of mounts and wants to try to reestablish himself before his apprenticeship expires in March.

He ranks 10th overall at Laurel, but hasn't become the highly prized apprentice Maryland is known to produce. Laurel's apprentices are notable now for their interchangeability, an unusual state for a circuit that has produced three rookie champions the past four years, with Mark Johnston likely to make it four of five for his feats in 1990.

"Maybe it's because there are so many of us {apprentices} here," Payton said. "I've got a {20 percent} win average this year, and they still don't want you. I'm going down there to ride more horses and make more money."

Payton came to Maryland from Oaklawn Park in Arkansas last July and won 29 races at Laurel and Pimlico to rank 21st for the year. He has 31 victories since Laurel opened in October to lead a well-matched group of apprentices that includes Calixto Juarez (18 wins), Clinton Potts (17), Mark Rosenthal (16) and Tim Peterson (14). OTB: De Francis Surprised

Laurel President Joe De Francis said he was startled by yesterday's announcement in Annapolis that off-track betting in Maryland is a dead issue for 1991.

"I was very surprised because everything I had heard up to this point had been positive," he said. "Other states are moving forward {with OTB} and recognizing you can't just rest on past successes. I just hope we can get that message to the legislature."

Lawmakers cited the uncertain ownership of Rosecroft Raceway and Delmarva Downs and the weak economy. . . .

Eagle Mill stayed the course back to respectability with a 1 1/2-length allowance victory over Thirty Eight Knots yesterday. The once-able 2-year-old lost his form and then injured himself at Arlington Park last summer. Then he was beaten in a $16,000 claimer when he resumed racing in October.

He steadily has improved in escaping the claiming range, and his latest triumph was the 1,999th for jockey Joe Rocco. Love A Hussy a Spoiler

The double-triple carryover neither grew nor shrank yesterday. The second half of the exotic wager essentially was canceled after Love A Hussy ran off before the race, precipitating her late withdrawal.

Because those holding the four live tickets were not given time to exchange them, the stewards voided all transfers.

The ticket holders split the remaining $6,764 from yesterday's pool, worth $1,691 for each ticket, meaning they doubled their third-race payoffs. Thursday's carryover will begin at $27,958.50. . . .

James Eich, 64, a camera operator at Maryland tracks for 22 years, died Monday after a lengthy illness. He had retired in 1989.