08/09/2006 12:00AM

Business on decline from record 2005 meet

Lone Star Park
Magnum, here winning the Lone Star Handicap, had a seven-furlong workout Wednesday for the Pacific Classic.

DEL MAR, Calif. - Business figures have slumped during the first three weeks of the Del Mar meeting compared with a record-breaking 2005 meeting, and are unlikely to rebound before the season ends on Sept. 6, according to Del Mar's chief financial officer, Mike Ernst.

Through Monday, the 18th day of the 43-day meeting, ontrack handle was down 5.9 percent and ontrack attendance was down 4.5 percent, Ernst said. All-sources handle had fallen 6 percent.

"We've had some big days," Ernst said. "Opening day was huge, and Fridays have exceeded expectations. Most of the other days, we've been off ontrack and out of state. We've made up a little bit in the last week or so.

"It will be tough to get back to last year's numbers."

Ernst called last year's handle "spectacular," having risen about 6.5 percent ontrack from the previous year.

In 2005, the all-sources handle reached $608.9 million, the fourth consecutive year for record business. Attendance was steady from 2004 to 2005 with average ontrack crowds of 17,000 in both seasons.

Ernst said that warm weather in late July affected ontrack business. He said that offtrack handle was hurt last week when a heat wave swept through the East Coast, keeping fans away from tracks in those states.

"The heat impacted us on track," he said. "California sports fans are a bit fickle when it comes to the weather."

Ernst was optimistic that the track could draw a large crowd for a concert by Billy Idol on Saturday, but said that would have a stronger impact on attendance than handle.

Del Mar made retroactive purse payments at the end of the calendar year from 2003 to 2005 because of stronger-than-expected business during those summers. The 2005 meeting was so strong that the track made a 5 percent purse increase in the fourth week of the meeting.

This year, neither will occur, Ernst said. The track started the meeting with purses at the same level as the end of the 2005 meeting.

"I think it's safe to say that there won't be a retroactive payment," Ernst said.

Ace blue to pass on Pacific Classic

Ace Blue, second to Lava Man in the Hollywood Gold Cup on July 8, will not start in the $1 million Pacific Classic on Aug. 20, trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said Wednesday.

"I think he's going to have some time out, and we'll take it from there," Hollendorfer said. "We don't want to push the horse."

Earlier in the week, Hollendorfer said that Ace Blue had not trained well at Del Mar and was "a little body-sore."

Lava Man leads the list of Pacific Classic probable starters, which includes Giacomo, Good Reward, Magnum, Papi Chullo, Preachin-atthebar, Perfect Drift, Super Frolic, and Top This and That.

Magnum worked seven furlongs in 1:25.20 on Wednesday. The winner of the Lone Star Park Handicap earlier this year, Magnum finished fourth behind Lava Man in the Hollywood Gold Cup.

Stewards using TVG images

Del Mar stewards have begun using images of two isolation cameras from the TVG network to review some inquiries and objections.

TVG isolates cameras on two horses per race on Fridays through Sundays, the days the network offers extensive coverage of Del Mar races. On other racing days, TVG does not have its own cameras at Del Mar, using the track's feed for coverage.

The decision to incorporate the images from TVG's cameras in the stewards' decision is part of the fallout of the Grade 1 Bing Crosby Handicap on July 30. In the stretch run of that race, jockey Jon Court, who rode the winner, Pure as Gold, appeared to strike runner-up Bordonaro in the face with his whip.

Jockey Alex Solis, who rode Bordonaro, filed an objection, which was disallowed by the stewards. The stewards reviewed images taken from Del Mar's cameras that did not conclusively reveal if Bordonaro was struck. TVG had an isolation camera on Bordonaro that made it appear the horse was struck in the face.

La Jolla to be compact

Saturday's $150,000 La Jolla Handicap for 3-year-olds on turf will have a small field. As of Wednesday, the list of probable starters included A.P. Warrior, Arson Squad, Caribbean, Porto Santo, and The Five J's.

Lightning Hit and Obrigado, the winners of the two divisions of the Oceanside Stakes on July 19, are passing the race. Lightning Hit is being pointed for the $400,000 Del Mar Derby at 1 1/8 miles on turf on Sept. 3, a race that may draw Brother Derek, the winner of the Santa Anita Derby.

Brother Derek, who was fourth in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes in May, worked six furlongs in 1:13.60 on Tuesday. Trainer Dan Hendricks that Brother Derek could start in the Del Mar Derby or the $100,000 El Cajon Stakes at a mile on dirt on Sept. 2.