07/28/2009 11:00PM

Bejarano to return later than hoped

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DEL MAR, Calif. - Jockey Rafael Bejarano, who suffered facial injuries in a spill on July 22, is targeting Aug. 28 for a comeback, according to his agent Joe Ferrer.

The projected return is later than what Bejarano and Ferrer had hoped after the jockey underwent surgery on July 23 for a fractured left cheek and jaw. At the time, there were discussions that Bejarano could return after two to three weeks.

"The target date is Aug. 28," Ferrer said. "One doctor said four weeks. Another said five weeks.

Bejarano, 27, was injured when Mi Rey broke down during the third race on July 22. Bejarano fell heavily and was kicked in the face by a trailing horse.

"The swelling will go down in three or four days," Ferrer said. "He's still a little puffy and he's bruised. He saw the accident on a replay and he considers himself lucky. If he'd fallen and not been kicked, he could have ridden the next day, but it could have been much worse."

Ferrer said that Bejarano will meet with doctors next Wednesday to review his recovery.

Bejarano, the leading rider at the 2008 Del Mar meeting, and at five other major race meetings in Southern California in 2008 and earlier this year, is currently recuperating from the surgery at a home he is renting in the Del Mar area, Ferrer said.

An Aug. 28 return would allow Bejarano for the final two weekends of the Del Mar meeting.

Early business strong

Business during the first five days of the Del Mar meeting showed gains compared with 2008 in several key categories, according to the track's chief financial officer, Mike Ernst.

Through Sunday, the fifth day of the 37-day meeting, the average all-sources handle was up 2.1 percent, and the average ontrack handle was up 12.3. percent. Average ontrack attendance was up 14.5 percent, with increases over each of the corresponding days in 2008

"We were very pleased with the first five days," Ernst said.

Ernst admitted that comparisons with the 2008 meeting are difficult, since Del Mar ran six days a week last year and this year is running five days a week, eliminating most Mondays.

Ernst said the absence of Monday racing will help the track's purse pool. In the past, handle generated on Mondays did not cover purses for the day.

Even with the increases, Ernst said the track will need at least an additional two weeks of data before a purse increase is contemplated.

One low point from the first week of the meeting was an 11 percent drop in out-of-state handle, which Ernst said mirrored trends earlier this year at Santa Anita and Hollywood Park.

"From a purse standpoint, that's low-margin handle compared to ontrack handle," he said.

Third Dawn taking a drop

Losses in four consecutive stakes by Third Dawn has given trainer John Sadler an excuse to try an easier optional claimer over a mile on Friday.

"I'm trying to get her a little confidence booster," Sadler said.

Owned by Ike and Dawn Thrash, Third Dawn has drawn the rail in a field of nine fillies and mares. One of three 3-year-old fillies in the field, Third Dawn ran twice at Hollywood Park during the spring-summer meeting, finishing third in the Grade 2 Hollywood Oaks and ninth in the Grade 1 American Oaks. In the American Oaks, she disputed the pace to the eighth pole and faded to finish nine lengths behind Gozzip Girl.

"It was an unfortunate trip," Sadler said.

On Friday, Third Dawn will be chasing Grace Anatomy, who is expected to be near the lead. Trained by Doug O'Neill, Grace Anatomy has 1 win in 17 starts, but has been second in her last three races. Corey Nakatani has the mount.

"If she finds the front, it's because Corey thinks she's going easy enough," O'Neill said. "It seems like she's regained her form. She's not one-dimensional. She can sit."

Mr Napper Tandy done for the year

Mr Napper Tandy, who won the Grade 2 San Francisco Mile at Golden Gate Fields in April, will be sidelined until 2010 after undergoing surgery for a fractured cannon bone, trainer Jack Carava said on Wednesday.

The injury occurred last weekend at Del Mar, Carava said.

"The surgery went well, so the outlook is good," Carava said.

Carava estimated that Mr Napper Tandy will need six to eight months of recovery time. Owned by La Canada Stable, Mr Napper Tandy has won 4 of 24 starts and $434,819.