08/04/2006 11:00PM

Bone, citing breakdowns, to change focus

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DEL MAR, Calif. - Frustrated by a string of injuries to his horses in recent weeks, leading owner Bob Bone said Friday that he is changing his approach to claiming horses and will focus more on acquiring potential broodmares.

Bone, who led all Southern California owners in victories last year with 58, said he has had three horses euthanized this summer in California as a result of sesamoid injuries suffered during races - Santeria at the San Joaquin County Fair in Stockton on June 18, Chobigmoe at Del Mar on July 23, and Payday Advance at the Sonoma County Fair in Santa Rosa on July 31.

In addition, Bone's promising New Zealand import Taactics suffered a career-ending injury during a workout on turf last Wednesday at Del Mar. Bone said he will be reluctant to claim older males in some cases.

"I'll look a lot less at old, tired claimers," he said. "I'll look at mares and I'll claim broodmares. Then, they'll have residual value."

The incidents led Bone to write an e-mail to several racing officials last Thursday, including California Horse Racing Board members and officials with the Thoroughbred Owners of California. The e-mail called for more study into injuries and questioned his investment in the sport. A copy of the e-mail was obtained by Daily Racing Form.

Bone, 43, said the e-mail "wasn't for anybody to shed a tear for me, but this is a statewide deal. It's at a rate that if it keeps up, nobody can afford to continue."

Bone said the injuries to his horses have not been isolated to one circuit or to one trainer.

"There hasn't been any one reason," he said on Friday.

Bone said he is hopeful that the advent of synthetic racing surfaces at California tracks will reduce injuries to horses. The five major tracks in California must install synthetic surfaces by the end of 2007 or risk losing racing dates. Hollywood Park will be the first to do so this fall, during its meeting that starts on Nov. 1.

"I'm hoping the synthetic solution will be the answer," Bone said.

Drew Couto, the president of the Thoroughbred Owners of California, said he planned to meet with Bone to discuss his concerns. Couto said the development of new surfaces should help reduce injuries, but questioned the impact of widespread medication, demands on 2-year-olds, and the durability of the breed as factors in the recent injuries.

"There is not a single cause to the accidents," Couto said.

El Don to stick with statebreds

El Don is likely to stay in California-bred company after winning his third stakes in the last year in Friday's $137,950 California Dreamin' Handicap, trainer Marty Jones said.

El Don ($4) rallied from fifth to finish three-quarters of a length in front of Super Strut, who closed from last in a field of nine. Ridden by Alex Solis, El Don ran 1 1/16 miles on turf in 1:40.07. He's the Rage, a 12-1 outsider, finished third.

El Don has won 7 of 21 starts and $409,351 for owners John Harris and Don Valpredo, the 5-year-old gelding's namesake. El Don has won two stakes at Bay Meadows in the last year - the California Turf Championship in September and the San Matean Handicap in May.

Jones said El Don's long-term goal is the $175,000 California Cup Mile for statebreds at the Oak Tree at Santa Anita meeting on Oct. 28.

Bob and John works on turf

Bob and John, the winner of the Wood Memorial Stakes at Aqueduct in April, worked 5 furlongs on turf in 58.40 seconds on Saturday, the first time the 3-year-old had been tested in any fashion on that surface.

Trained by Bob Baffert for Bob and Janice McNair, Bob and John has not started since finishing 17th in the Kentucky Derby on May 6.

In Saturday's work, Bob and John worked in company with Like Running Water, who also was timed in 58.40 seconds. Bob and John started on the outside of Like Running Water and the two finished as a team.

"I wouldn't know a good turf work from a bad turf work," said Baffert, who runs most of his horses on dirt. "I wanted to see if he liked it. It's just a trial."

Baffert was noncommittal regarding where Bob and John would make his next start. Bob and John was not nominated for Saturday's $150,000 La Jolla Handicap for 3-year-olds on turf. Another possibility on grass is the $400,000 Del Mar Derby at 1 1/8 miles on Sept. 3.

* Funeral services for horse owner Marc Sterling are scheduled for Monday at 1 p.m. at Groman Eden Chapel in Mission Hills, Calif.. Sterling died Thursday in La Jolla at age 87. Bruce Headley trained many of Sterling's horses. His top runners included Be on Time and Merger Maker.

* The popular HBO program "Entourage" will be filming at Del Mar from Tuesday through Thursday for a program that will air in the spring of 2007.

- additional reporting by Brad Free