06/24/2005 12:00AM

1.8 million reasons to run

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Benoit & Associates
Andujar, winning the Milady BC, is being pointed to the Vanity Handicap on July 9.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Hollywood Park will offer the year's richest day of stakes racing in Southern California on July 9, a card that features five stakes worth $1,850,000, including the Grade 1, $750,000 American Oaks for 3-year-old fillies.

Whether the program will be embraced by racing fans and supported by owners and trainers, though, remains to be seen.

The program features five graded stakes. Aside from the American Oaks, the top races are the Grade 1, $350,000 Triple Bend Breeders' Cup Handicap for sprinters; the Grade 1, $300,000 Vanity Handicap for fillies and mares; the Grade 2, $250,000 American Invitational Handicap on turf; and the Grade 3, $200,000 Royal Heroine Stakes for fillies and mares on turf.

By comparison, the Santa Anita Handicap program on March 5 featured four stakes worth $1.6 million, the richest stakes day at that meeting.

Last year, the American Oaks program was held on a Saturday. The card drew an ontrack crowd of 17,011, which contributed to an all-sources handle of $18,780,208, the third-highest handle of the meeting, behind the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes simulcast programs. Three other stakes were on that program - the Royal Heroine, Flawlessly, and Triple Bend.

With no Breeders' Cup Championship Day program scheduled in California through 2007, Hollywood Park racing secretary Martin Panza said programs such as the July 9 card can offer fans a substitute.

"The East Coast has the Triple Crown, and the Breeders' Cup is a big day," he said. "We need to try to develop a big day, and this has what it needs to do that."

Aside from stakes, the program features overnight races with larger-than-normal purses that are supplemented by the California Marketing Committee. For example, a maiden race will be offered for $60,000, a $15,000 increase from the typical purse for such a race.

While the American Oaks and Triple Bend will have large fields, there are questions surrounding some of the other July 9 stakes. The presence of Andujar, the winner of the Milady Breeders' Cup Handicap on June 4, could limit the size of the Vanity Handicap field. Top turf females such as Mea Domina, Intercontinental, and Ticker Tape may scare off some runners from the Royal Heroine.

Panza projects a field of 12 or 13 for the American Oaks, below the maximum of 14. He said further invitations may be issued over the weekend.

The race is led by recent stakes winners Melhor Ainda and Three Degrees.

Continental Red victory a relief

Two years of losses by Continental Red ended with a five-length win in the Quicken Tree Stakes for statebreds on June 18. The victory arrived not a moment too soon for owner-breeders Wes and Sharon Fitzpatrick.

"There was a spontaneous round of applause when he crossed the finish line," said Wes Fitzpatrick. "It really sent chills up your spine. Sharon and I were so appreciative. It felt good to be back in the winner's circle."

Continental Red had not won since the 2003 Quicken Tree, a span in which he appeared in 19 stakes, 13 of them graded.

The 2002 California-bred horse of the year, Continental Red, 9, has won 8 of 71 starts and $1,336,518.

Last summer, Continental Red finished seventh in the Hollywood Gold Cup, but Wes Fitzpatrick said that race is not on their calendar this year.

"He hasn't had a good race on the dirt ever since," Fitzpatrick said.

Instead, Fitzpatrick said Continental Red could be pointed for the Esconidido Handicap at Del Mar, a restricted race over 1 3/8 miles on turf.

"He's so hard to spot," Fitzpatrick said. "When he gets a little long in the tooth, you want to get as easy competition as you can."

Continental Red's victory marked trainer Tony Gonzalez's first stakes win. In a sense, winning a stakes with Continental Red was nothing new to Gonzalez. He was an assistant to Continental Red's former trainer, Ian Jory.

Jory accepted a training job in Saudi Arabia earlier this year. After making one start for Adam Kitchingman, Continental Red was sent to Gonzalez, who is based in Jory's old stable at Hollywood Park.

Threewitt gets Pincay Award

Noble Threewitt, the oldest active trainer in California at 94, will receive the Laffit Pincay Jr. Award at Hollywood Park on July 9, Hollywood Gold Cup day.

The award, which honors dedication, integrity, and success in racing, was presented for the first time last year to former track executive and photography company owner Bob Benoit.

Threewitt has a small stable operating at Santa Anita. A trainer since the age of 21 in 1932, Threewitt has saddled nearly 2,000 winners.

CHRB introduces fingerprint-scanning

In an effort to prevent people who are banned from participating in racing from gaining licenses, the California Horse Racing Board has introduced fingerprint-scanning technology for license applicants.

The new procedure will allow CHRB officials to obtain criminal histories from the California Department of Justice more quickly than the previous method of fingerprint cards.