09/08/2002 11:00PM

Black Ruby beats Taz in mule duel


DEL MAR, Calif. - Black Ruby, the popular racing mule, can add Del Mar to the list of tracks she has conquered.

In an exhibition match race held after the program on Sunday, Black Ruby easily beat Taz, her arch-rival from the northern California fair circuit.

Ridden by Jim Burns, Black Ruby was always in front. She had a half-length lead on Taz at the eighth pole and won by two lengths in 23.35 seconds despite drifting out during the stretch of the 400-yard race.

While there was no betting - non-fair tracks cannot take wagers on mule racing - there was plenty of interest. Del Mar widely publicized the race and passed out buttons with head shots of each mule.

Even though the match was held 15 minutes after the last Thoroughbred race, track officials estimated that 8,000 people from a crowd of 19,342 remained on the grounds.

The victory was Black Ruby's eighth in nine starts this year, raising her 2002 earnings to $34,305. This was her first appearance in Southern California; she has raced primarily on the northern California fair circuit.

On Saturday, the two will have a rematch at Fairplex Park. That race will include betting because it is being run at the Los Angeles County Fair meeting.

Trainer O'Neill hits daily double

There will be few afternoons like Saturday for trainer Doug O'Neill. At 3:07 p.m., his wife Linette gave birth to the couple's first child, Daniel Robert, who weighed in six pounds, 15 ounces.

Less than 30 minutes later, O'Neill slipped into a hospital hallway to get a play-by-play description of Avanzado's United States stakes debut in the Pirate's Bounty Handicap from his brother Dennis.

Over the phone, O'Neill heard Dennis describe how Avanzado battled with Rio Oro for the first-half mile before slowly pulling away to win by three-quarters of a length.

"It was an amazing half-hour," O'Neill said.

Avanzado is unbeaten in two starts in the U.S. for Cees Stable, the same owners who campaigned Tiznow, the two-time winner of the Breeders' Cup Classic.

Avanzado was imported from Argentina earlier this year. A 5-year-old by Luhuk, a son of Forty Niner, Avanzado won 5 of 15 starts in Argentina, including wins in sprints on turf and dirt.

He is being pointed to the $200,000 Ancient Title Breeders' Cup Handicap on Oct. 5. Should he win, he is unlikely to start in the Breeders' Cup Sprint at Arlington Park on Oct. 26 because of a high supplemental fee.

O'Neill said a race in Hong Kong in December will be considered if Avanzado continues to show outstanding form.

For the time being, the trainer is content with the horse's progress and his growing family.

"It was a pretty wild experience," said O'Neill. "I guess I'm ready to handle all the crying stuff for the next few years."

Actor Tobey Maguire visits track

Actor Tobey Maguire, who will play the role of jockey Red Pollard in the movie based on the best-selling Seabiscuit book, visited Del Mar on Saturday.

Maguire spent the day with retired jockey Chris McCarron and his wife, Judy, both of whom are serving as consultants for the film, which is scheduled for release in late 2003. Chris McCarron will appear in riding sequences for the film.

Maguire spent part of the day in the jockey's room and made a visit to the starting gate. He played the starring role in "Spiderman" earlier this year.

Steiner suspended for causing interference

Jockey Joe Steiner has been suspended three days for causing interference that led to the disqualification of Cat on Guard from first to second in the eighth race on Sept. 6.

The stewards ruled that Cat on Guard drifted into the path of Mecanico in the stretch.

Steiner's suspension begins on Friday, the first day of the Fairplex Park meeting, and continues through Sunday.

Krigger's apprenticeship extended to Oct. 10

Jockey Kevin Krigger has had his apprentice term extended by 32 days on Sunday after providing stewards with documentation proving that he missed a month earlier this year because of injury.

Krigger was scheduled to lose his five-pound allowance on Sunday. He will remain an apprentice until Oct. 10.

Greenman, Chew fined for medication no-no's

The stewards on Sunday fined trainers Dean Greenman and Matthew Chew for medication violations.

Greenman was fined $3,000 after Salt Lake Success, the winner of the eighth race at Hollywood Park on Dec. 14, 2001, was found to have raced with an excessive amount of clenbuterol, a bronchial dilator. Salt Lake Success has been disqualified, and the purse money redistributed.

According to a ruling released by the stewards, the penalty was a stipulated settlement agreed to by both parties.

Chew was fined $500 after Luna Joe, the winner of the fifth race at Hollywood Park on June 13, was found to have raced with an excess of bute.

Builder-trainer Currin taking on Baffert

William Currin is not a household name. He just builds houses.

Currin made his fortune as building homes in northern California, and though that continues as his main source of income, his involvement in racing has increased to the point where training is a near full-time job.

"Whenever you get up at 5 in the morning, it's getting pretty serious," he said at his Del Mar barn.

Currin has 16 horses, most of whom he owns in partnership with Al Eisman. Included in the group is Outta Here, a 2-year-old Dehere colt who will take on Bob Baffert's Fab Five in Wednesday's Del Mar Futurity.

Outta Here was purchased by Currin and Eisman, a swimming pool manufacturer, as a yearling for $37,000. A chestnut-colored colt, he has yet to win in three starts, but he finished in the money in two stakes races.

"He's a muscular, average-sized colt. He's very unassuming. He's very relaxed," Currin said. "We don't need a shank for him."

Currin, who admits to being in his "mid-60's," has had a training license for 30 years. He divides his time between homes in Solana Beach, near Del Mar, a penthouse in Beverly Hills, and a home in Pleasanton, where his construction business is based. "I have three sets of toothbrushes and three NordicTraks," he said.

Currin has a dry sense of humor, and though he dishes it out, he can take it, too. He easily pokes fun at himself.

"I was born in Oxford, North Carolina," he said. "Bill Clinton and I were both educated at Oxford. I went to Oxford High School. He went to England."

Del Mar ceremonies honor anniversary of 9/11

Del Mar will have two ceremonies on Wednesday to mark the one-year anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Before the races, the national anthem will be sung by a local firefighter and a veteran color guard will participate in the raising of the flag. Then, following the third race, a huge, 100-by-50-yard flag will be unfurled by firefighters and law enforcement personnel, and the Elite Frogs unit of the United States Navy Seals will drop in via parachute. In addition, a red, white, and blue pin will be given to all fans with paid admission.

Both ceremonies will be hosted by CBS sportscaster Dick Enberg, a resident of nearby Rancho Santa Fe.

Following the races, Del Mar will have its annual Party in the Paddock, with proceeds benefiting the Children's Hospital Auxiliary and the San Diego County Firefighters' Relief Fund. Tickets for the event are $20 in advance, $30 at the door.

* Pleasantly Perfect, who was fourth in the Pacific Classic last time out, worked five furlongs in 1:00.20 on Monday morning.

- additional reporting by Jay Privman