10/13/2004 11:00PM

California board grants two extra racing days

Borrego is in the Oak Tree Derby.

ARCADIA, Calif. - The California Horse Racing Board on Thursday granted Santa Anita two additional days for its upcoming winter-spring meeting.

The Santa Anita meeting, which opens Dec. 26 and runs through April 18, will include two Wednesdays not previously allotted - Jan. 19 and Feb. 23. The Wednesdays fall two days after holiday racing on Mondays. In recent years, those Wednes-days have been dark, but the track requested them after the board denied a request to extend the winter-spring meeting through April 24.

The addition of those dates is contingent on the racetrack reaching agreement with the Thoroughbred Owners of California and the California Thoroughbred Trainers that there are sufficient race-ready horses to conduct two six-day weeks of racing.

At Thursday's CHRB meeting, Santa Anita president Jack McDaniel said the added days would allow the track to recoup some of the revenue that an additional weekend would have brought.

"This is not the most popular thing I'm proposing," he said. "It is a vital thing for our meeting."

The additional days will give the Santa Anita winter-spring meeting an 85-day season.

"It's not our desire to run six days unless the racing office is comfortable that if we have good weather we can fill the dates," McDaniel said. "If we have bad weather, it could be difficult."

Although the request was approved by the CHRB, chairman John Harris said he had concerns about creating six-day weeks.

"I've got concerns with field size," he said. "I've never heard from fans that they want six-day weeks."

The Thoroughbred Owners of California did not voice an opinion on the proposal. President Drew Couto said he was presented with Santa Anita's proposal in the hour before the meeting.

"I'm not taking a position on it until we have a chance to look at it," he said.

Shapiro in first board meeting

Thursday's meeting marked the first for new commissioner Richard Shapiro. He replaced Beverly Hills lawyer Roger Licht, whose term expired during the summer.

Shapiro, who was appointed to the CHRB this week by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, has yet to be confirmed by the Senate.

Shapiro is the grandson of Louis K. Shapiro, who campaigned Native Diver, the three-time winner of the Hollywood Gold Cup in the 1960's. Richard Shapiro, 51, of Hidden Hills, Calif., is a horse owner who has a history of involvement in harness racing. He wasted no time in making his voice heard on Thursday, offering motions and getting involved in conversation centered on a debate between the Quarter Horse and harness racing groups regarding simulcast revenue.

Borrego's first grass race of 2004

Borrego, second in the Super Derby and three other stakes for 3-year-olds this year, will start in Sunday's $150,000 Oak Tree Derby at Santa Anita.

The race marks Borrego's first start on turf since he finished eighth in the Generous Stakes at Hollywood Park last November. Borrego was on the Triple Crown trail last winter and spring - he finished second in the Louisiana and Arkansas derbies and 10th in the Kentucky Derby.

Trainer Beau Greely does not consider Borrego's move to turf to be permanent, but he wants to take advantage of upcoming opportunities. The Oak Tree Derby is followed by the $500,000 Hollywood Derby at 1 1/4 miles on turf on Nov. 28.

"The ultimate plan is to put him back on the dirt, but we didn't have many options right now," Greely said.

Borrego finished a half-length behind Fantasticat in the Super Derby at Louisiana Downs on Sept. 25. The $4 million Breeders' Cup Classic at Lone Star Park on Oct. 30 was never a serious consideration for the partners that own Borrego, Greely said.

"We toyed around with it," he said. "I was delighted with the way he ran in Louisiana, but he would have been 50-1 at the Breeders' Cup and it would be tough to spend $120,000 in entry fees and have the owners be happy. You look silly if you don't run that well and put up that kind of money."

Borrego is one of eight probables for the Grade 2 Oak Tree Derby, which is run at 1 1/8 miles. The others are Greek Sun, Hendrix, Imperialism, Laura's Lucky Boy, On the Acorn, Terroplane, and We All Love Aleyna.

Imperialism will be ridden by Victor Espinoza. Earlier this year, Espinoza rode Imperialism to wins in the San Vicente and San Rafael stakes and a third in the Santa Anita Derby. Espinoza rode Borrego in the Kentucky Derby, allowing Kent Desormeaux to pick up the mount on Imperialism, who finished third.

In Sunday's Oak Tree Derby, Desormeaux has the mount on Terroplane, who was fourth, beaten three-quarters of a length, in the Del Mar Derby on turf in his last start.