07/22/2010 1:18PM

Another record crowd at Del Mar's opening day


DEL MAR, Calif. – Del Mar set an attendance record of 45,309 on Wednesday’s opening day of the summer meeting, surpassing a record that lasted for all of one year.

“That’s a terrific crowd,” said Del Mar’s chief executive, Joe Harper.

The handle figures were not as robust. The all-sources handle figure of $12,637,828 was down 4 percent from the $13,182,195 from 2009. The on-track handle of $3,813,090 was down 3.9 percent from the 3,954,701 bet in 2008.

Del Mar’s opening day has become such a sporting and social fixture in the San Diego area that four of the top five ontrack attendance figures in track history have been on opening day, and all since 2007. The only exception among the five highest attendance figures in track history was the crowd of 44,181 that saw Dare and Go upset Cigar in the 1996 Pacific Classic.

Wednesday, two pools for multi-race wagers were considerably higher than last year. The pick six drew a pool of $296,676, a gain of 42 percent over the 2009 opening-day pool of $207,914. The pick four, a bet that was reduced from a minimum bet of one dollar last year to 50 cents this year, drew an opening-day pool of $573,146, a gain of 23 percent over the 2009 opening-day pool of $464,475. Harper said the track would consider adding a second pick four on the first four races. The current pick four covers the last four races.

Del Mar was the most prestigious signal in the nation on Wednesday, a day when the New York Racing Association or Monmouth Park did not conduct racing.

Del Mar’s Polytrack synthetic surface was favorably received by jockeys. Tyler Baze, who won two races, said the surface was “great. I think it will be more consistent. I think speed can win and horses can come from off of it.”

Jockey Mike Smith, who did not have a winner on Wednesday, said most horses were able to handle the surface. “They seem to get a hold of it, some do better than others,” he said.

Training canceled

Del Mar canceled training on its Polytrack surface on Thursday morning after overnight maintenance created inconsistencies in the surface through the stretch, according to the track’s racing secretary, Tom Robbins.

Robbins described the problem as a “separation” of the sand and fiber that is part of the Polytrack material.

“There were uneven spots, especially in the stretch,” Robbins said.

The overnight procedure is known as “power-harrowing,” in which the top several inches of the surface is mixed to avoid significant compaction. The procedure is typically done once a week but has been done nightly since the track opened for training in mid-July. Del Mar’s meeting began on Wednesday and Robbins said the power-harrowing procedure will be scaled down to weekly now that the meeting has started.

The main track was closed Thursday shortly after training began before dawn. By mid-morning, track maintenance crews, directed by track superintendent Richard Tedesco, were remixing the surface in advance of racing on Thursday.

“It’s a thorough mixing of the material,” Robbins said.

Training was reduced to horses being jogged in a one-furlong area in a backstretch chute and limited activity on a small training track adjacent to the main track.

Robbins said Thursday morning that the track was expected to be fine for racing that afternoon.Racing resumed as scheduled on Thursday afternoon.

Twirling Candy now 3 for 3

Twirling Candy remained perfect after three starts following his stakes debut and first start around two turns in Wednesday’s $112,500 Oceanside Stakes.

The style of his win, kicking away from nine rivals to beat pacesetter Macias by 2 1/4 lengths, left trainer John Sadler rightfully dreaming of big races. In the winner’s circle, he mentioned the $300,000 Del Mar Derby here on Sept. 5 as Twirling Candy’s potential start.

“I’m not going to get in any big hurry,” Sadler said. “He’s that good. We were not surprised the way he ran.”

Plagued by sore shins at 2, when he beat maidens in November before being turned out for the winter, Twirling Candy won his comeback in an optional claimer at Hollywood Park in May, and was promptly pointed for the Oceanside Stakes. The Oceanside was Twirling Candy’s first start on turf.

“He’s a big horse and he’s a slow learner,” Sadler said. “He had a little shin problem last year and that’s why he missed the classics.”

Twirling Candy has earned $114,900.

Twirling Candy is owned by Jenny Craig and was bred by her and her late husband, Sid. Twirling Candy’s win came on the two-year anniversary of his death.

Burg Berg eyes breakthrough

Burg Berg, who has been second in her last three starts by a combined length, will attempt to win her first stakes in Saturday’s $75,000 Osunitas Handicap for fillies and mares on turf.

Burg Berg was beaten a half-length by Gotta Have Her in the Grade 2 Royal Heroine Stakes over a mile on turf at Hollywood Park on July 3, a loss that left trainer Paco Gonzalez optimistic that Burg Berg is close to a stakes breakthrough.

“She didn’t get too rank in the first part,” Gonzalez said. “We gave her a little time off and she came back more mature.”

Burg Berg lost allowance races by a neck on May 1 and May 19.

Owned by breeders John and Cheryl Toffan, Burg Berg has won 3 of 13 starts and $170,555. She is part of a field of an oversubscribed field of 12 that will be limited to 10 starters. The Osunitas, which is run over 1 1 1/16 miles on turf, is restricted to horses who have not won a stakes worth $50,000 to the winner at a mile or over, other than statebred races, this year.

The field includes the Texas shipper Fortunia, who was second in the Grade 3 Ouija Board Handicap at Lone Star Park on May 31, and U R All That I Am, who won two state-bred stakes at Hollywood Park and was third in the Royal Heroine in her last three starts.