01/07/2004 1:00AM

Better late than . . .


ARCADIA, Calif. - Del Mar and Fairplex Park have made retroactive purse increases totaling nearly $900,000 after business figures during their 2003 meetings were stronger than expected.

Del Mar distributed $500,959 to owners who had horses earn purse money in overnight races. Fairplex Park paid $389,201. The retroactive payments were announced at the conclusion of each meeting.

The increases were not offered during the meetings because they were so short - Del Mar races for 43 days, Fairplex Park for 17.

The retroactive purse increases come after purses were decreased at the Oak Tree at Santa Anita and Hollywood Park fall meetings. Oak Tree cut purses by 10 percent for seven of the final eight days of its meeting and eliminated the $200,000 Las Palmas Handicap on Nov. 8. Track officials cited lower than expected business as the reason for the purse cut.

Hollywood Park reduced purses by 8 percent for the final three weeks of its six-week meeting, citing an overpayment from 2002.

The Fairplex Park increase reflected a 14-percent increase in overnight purse distribution, according to George Bradvica, equine manager for the Los Angles County Fair.

Fairplex Park had a single-day record handle of $10.2 million on Sept. 27 and a record all-sources total handle of $109,249,303 for the meeting.

"We think field size is why this all happened," Bradvica said.

Bradvica said average field size for Thoroughbred races increased from 7.56 per race in 2002 to 8.13 in 2003. Field sizes for Appaloosa, mule, and Quarter Horse races increased from 5.71 in 2002 to 6.5.

Del Mar's retroactive payment reflected a 3.6-percent increase in overnight purses. Del Mar had an all-sources average handle of $13,274,308, a record.

"We had a real strong race meeting," said Michael Ernest, Del Mar chief financial officer. "Advance deposit wagering and out-of-state business was strong. Intertrack wagering held up even with inter-track attendance off slightly and the increased popularity of ADW."

San Felipe bumped up a day

The $250,000 San Felipe Stakes has been pushed back a day - from March 13 to March 14 - to accommodate cable television coverage. The race will be shown live on ESPN2, according to Santa Anita assistant general manager Mike Ziegler.

The San Felipe is a top prep for the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby on April 3.

The change has forced a revision of the stakes schedule for that weekend. The $100,000 Crystal Water Handicap for California-breds over a mile on turf has been moved from March 14 to March 13.

Two other important stakes will be run that weekend but have not been affected by the schedule change. The March 13 program includes the $300,000 Santa Anita Oaks for 3-year-old fillies, and the March 14 card includes the $300,000 Santa Margarita Handicap for older fillies and mares.

Excessivepleasure gets Grade 2 test

Excessivepleasure spent most of 2003 ducking the top 3-year-olds in the nation. Along the way, he won 3 of 9 starts and earned $821,782, scoring wins in the WinStar Derby, Iowa Derby, and Indiana Derby.

In his only Grade 1 start, he finished seventh in the $1 million Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park.

Saturday, Excessivepleasure remains with his own age group in the $200,000 San Fernando Breeders' Cup Stakes and will be trying to win his first Grade 2 race.

Excessivepleasure will be easy to find in the San Fernando, run over 1 1/16 miles. He tends to race close to the pace and has proven to be ineffective as a closer

"He wants to be in the fray," said trainer Doug O'Neill. "He's a gutty, gutty horse, and he has ability to go with his heart. Through all that travel and races, he's stayed sound.

The San Fernando is a prep to the $300,000 Strub Stakes over 1 1/8 miles Feb. 7. With Peace Rules pointing for the $1 million Sunshine Millions for California-breds and Florida-breds Jan. 24, there is no standout in the San Fernando.

The candidates include Anziyan Royalty, Domestic Dispute, During, Ender's Shadow, Senor Swinger, Spensive, Toccet, and Watchem Smokey.

Baffert sets Congaree's schedule

Congaree, a finalist in the voting for the outstanding sprinter and outstanding older horse of 2003, will make his next start in the $250,000 San Antonio Handicap on Jan. 31 or the Donn Handicap at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 7, trainer Bob Baffert said.

The San Antonio is expected to mark the 2004 debut of Pleasantly Perfect, winner of the 2003 Breeders' Cup Classic. Medaglia d'Oro, a finalist for outstanding older male of 2003, is being pointed for the Donn.

Injury sidelines Avanzado

Avanzado, the winner of the Ancient Title and Palos Verdes handicaps in 2003, has been sidelined with a splint bone injury that will prevent him from defending his title in the Palos Verdes on Feb. 1, O'Neill said.

O'Neill, Avanzado's trainer, described the injury as "heat over a splint bone." He said the injury could jeopardize Avanzado's trip to Dubai for the $2 million Golden Shaheen on March 27, a race in which Avanzado was second last year.

"We're chilling out," O'Neill said. "We don't know if we can make the trip to Dubai."

Fogelsonger to have more therapy

The comeback of jockey Ryan Fogelsonger has been postponed until late January as he continues to recover from a shoulder injury suffered at Hollywood Park on Dec. 12.

Fogelsonger suffered a muscle tear in a fall. He had tentatively scheduled a comeback for Friday but now is pointing to Jan. 22, according to agent Michelle Barsotti.

Barsotti said Fogelsonger has been instructed to undergo an additional week of therapy and that Fogelsonger will resume exercising horses next week.