10/05/2004 11:00PM

Buckland Manor lands in Oak Tree Mile


ARCADIA, Calif. - Buckland Manor returned from a layoff this month without an obvious race for his comeback. Having few options, owners Trudy McCaffery and John Toffan have chosen to supplement Buckland Manor to Saturday's $250,000 Oak Tree Breeders' Cup Mile at Santa Anita, a race that serves as a Breeders' Cup Mile prep for some starters.

Trainer Paco Gonzalez is not looking that far down the road - at least not yet.

"He would have to run very big," Gonzalez said of the Oak Tree Mile. "I've got no other place to run."

The Oak Tree Mile is expected to draw a solid field, including Singletary and Tsigane, who were second and third in the Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile at Hollywood Park in May, and the filly Musical Chimes, the winner of the Grade 1 John Mabee Handicap at Del Mar in July.

Not running in the Oak Tree Mile is Special Ring, the winner of the Eddie Read Handicap at Del Mar in July. "If Special Ring was running, I wouldn't run," Gonzalez said.

Buckland Manor has yet to win a stakes on turf. He won two allowance races over a mile at the 2003 Oak Tree meeting. Buckland Manor was third in the Strub Stakes on dirt last February.

Buckland Manor could have run in an allowance race over about 6 1/2 furlongs on the hillside turf course, but that race was too short for him, Gonzalez said. Without many options on the main track for Buckland Manor, the $5,000 supplement to the Oak Tree Mile became viable.

Buckland Manor has not started since finishing fifth in the Grade 2 Mervyn LeRoy Handicap on dirt at Hollywood Park last May.

"We sent him to the farm for two months," Gonzalez said. "He's really training very good."

Del Mar turf course renovated

Del Mar has installed nearly six acres of Bermuda grass on its turf course, allowing for more than 10 months of growth before the 2005 meeting starts next July.

Purchased for $140,000, the Bermuda grass was one of several types of grass used in test plots on the outside of the backstretch this summer. The test plots were used primarily during workouts in the recently concluded meeting.

The Bermuda grass is known as GN-1, named for pro golfer Greg Norman, who bought the patent.

Del Mar grounds superintendent Leif Dickinson said the GN-1 test plot fared best during the summer. The grass was also used for racing this year in a 30-foot-wide section of the homestretch from the chute to the clubhouse turn that was installed in 2003.

"The entire oval will be Bermuda grass, mimicking the piece we put in last year in front," Dickinson said. "That seemed to work out pretty well. Based on what we know today, this is the best for this climate."

Previously, the turf course consisted of coast Bermuda, hybrid Bermuda, and kikuyu.

Some grading work was done in advance of the installation of the new Bermuda surface.

"We finished the installation last Friday," Dickinson said. "It's already rooted and you can't pull up the turf. We won't get a lot of top growth out of it until springtime, but we should get adequate rooting. That's what we're hoping for."

Pedroza unseated from mount but uninjured

Martin Pedroza, the top rider at Fairplex Park last month, escaped injury Wednesday when he was unseated from Gold Bidder in the first race here.

Turning for home in the 1 1/16-mile race, Gold Bidder ducked to the outside while running in third, unseating Pedroza, who was thrown clear. Pedroza finished fourth in the second race aboard Jerri Lynn.

Pedroza set a record for most wins in a season at Fairplex Park last month with 51.

Nakatani allowed to ride through Oct. 14

Jockey Corey Nakatani, who faces a 30-day suspension, has received a stay to allow him to continue riding through Oct. 14.

Nakatani's suspension was scheduled to take effect on Friday and continue through Nov. 7, with the exception of Oct. 30, Breeders' Cup Day at Lone Star Park.

Nakatani is booked to ride Hosco in the Phoenix Breeders' Cup Stakes at Keeneland on Friday afternoon and then travel to The Meadowlands in New Jersey to ride Dynever in the Meadowlands Cup.

Nakatani has hired Geragos and Geragos, a prominent Los Angeles law firm, to fight the case. Nakatani was given the 30-day suspension for causing interference in a turf race at Santa Anita last March. He appealed the case to an administrative law judge who upheld the decision of the Santa Anita stewards, forcing this week's court action.

Coastal Strike sidelined with sore shins

Coastal Strike, the winner of the Generous Portion Stakes at Del Mar last month, has been turned out with tender shins. The setback will prevent the 2-year-old filly from starting in the $125,000 California Cup Juvenile Fillies on Oct. 16.

"We pin-fired her shin," trainer Clifford Sise said. "It was no big deal."