08/11/2006 11:00PM

Allowances prove hard to fill

Bob and John hasn't run since he finished eighth in the Belmont Stakes in June. His next start could come on turf in the Del Mar Derby on Sept. 3.

DEL MAR, Calif. - In a reflection of what many see as a decline in the quality of racing in Southern California, Del Mar is struggling to fill allowance races around two turns on dirt and has run more maiden claimers for sprinters in the first half of the meeting compared to 2005.

Through Sunday, the 23rd day of the meeting, Del Mar had carded 40 sprints for maiden claimers, compared to 35 during the same period in 2005. The number of two-turn allowance races on the main track had dropped nearly in half, from seven to four.

Director of racing Tom Robbins said that he has had difficulty filling the most basic of allowance races, a first-condition allowance race at a mile or 1 1/16 miles.

"The bottom line is there is some weakness in numbers in some allowance dirt categories," Robbins said. "I hate to say it, but it's a trend we saw at Hollywood Park. It's continued here. I know we're lighter in allowance dirt categories than we have been in the past."

The absence of allowance races has been glaring on some weekend programs, when the quality of racing is usually higher than during the week. On Aug. 5, for example, a Saturday, two races for maiden claimers and two races for $12,500 claimers were run in the first five races. The top races on the 10-race card were an allowance sprint for fillies and mares and a stakes for 2-year-old fillies.

Robbins said there are almost always maiden claimers available when allowance races do not fill.

"When they don't go they have to be replaced by other races," Robbins said of the allowance races. "Going six days a week, you have to go the bottom of the pyramid, and that means the maiden claimers."

Seven Nation Army to stretch out

Seven Nation Army won his first stakes in the $106,000 Real Good Deal Stakes for statebred sprinters on Friday, but it may be his last appearance in a sprint in the near future. Trainer Jeff Mullins said Seven Nation Army will be pointed for the Los Angeles County Fair meeting at Fairplex Park next month, with the $100,000 Pomona Derby on Sept. 23 a possibility. The Pomona Derby is at 1 1/8 miles.

"This horse has the longest stride you've ever seen," Mullins said. "It looks like he might go two turns, and Pomona is coming up."

Ridden by Martin Garcia in the Real Good Deal, Seven Nation Army ($10.20) closed from fourth to finish a half-length in front of 1-2 favorite Da Stoops. Seven Nation Army ran seven furlongs in 1:23.21. Da Stoops finished 1 1/4 lengths in front of Bold Chieftain, who was third in the field of five.

Da Stoops, a winner of three stakes for statebreds, carried 125 pounds, eight more than Seven Nation Army, because of the allowance conditions of the race. Da Stoops was third on the turn, led by 1 1/2 lengths in the stretch, and offered little resistance in the final furlong.

Seven Nation Army races for David Lanzman and Jason Wood. A gelding, Seven Nation Army has won 2 of 6 starts and $141,427.

Baffert works three big 3-year-olds

Trainer Bob Baffert worked three of his leading 3-year-olds on Saturday - Bob and John, Point Determined, and Sinister Minister.

Bob and John, who finished eighth in the Belmont Stakes on June 10, worked seven furlongs on turf in 1:28.40. He is a candidate for the $400,000 Del Mar Derby on turf on Sept. 3.

Point Determined, second in the Swaps Stakes at Hollywood Park last month, worked six furlongs in 1:11.60, the fastest of 19 works at the distance.

Sinister Minister, the winner of the Blue Grass Stakes in April but unraced since finishing 16th in the Kentucky Derby in May, worked six furlongs in 1:11.80.

Baffert has not stated where Point Determined or Sinister Minister will return.

Stock Split was a strong buy

There was not much left of owner Tony Sciarrino's voice on Saturday morning. A little more than 12 hours earlier, Sciarrino had yelled himself hoarse watching Stock Split make an improbable rally through the stretch of a seven-furlong maiden claimer in Friday's fifth race. Stock Split overcame a terrible start to rally from last in a field of 10 and win his second start by 1 1/4 lengths.

"We were screaming, 'Dig, baby, dig!' " Sciarrino said. "I can barely talk. It was so much fun."

Sciarrino, 32, owns Stock Split with his brother, Pete, 26, and cousin Pete Gargano, 37. They claimed the gelding for $25,000 out of his debut on Aug. 2.

But Stock Split has a pedigree you don't often see in a maiden claimer: He is a gelding by top stallion Storm Cat out of the Grade 1 stakes winner Twice the Vice. Such bloodlines are more befitting of a stakes winner.

Stock Split ran in the maiden claimer earlier this month because he has problems.

"I was a little surprised" he was claimed, said his former trainer, Clifford Sise. "He's got a breathing issue. He's got a leg issue, too."

In Friday's race, Stock Split was ridden by Michael Baze, who earned the praise of new trainer Mike Mitchell for his patient ride after the poor start.

"On the backstretch, he was out of the picture," Mitchell said of the head-on view. "He let the horse settle and straighten out."

"We didn't know what happened," Tony Sciarrino said of the start.

A few furlongs later, Stock Split was easy to find, rolling past the field.

* Baze was fined $750 by track stewards Friday for striking his mount in Thursday's first race in the face with a whip. Baze rode Confederate Lady to a last-place finish as the 9-5 favorite.