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Classy horse still in search of first stakes
DEL MAR, Calif. - Borrego has raced competitively with the best runners in the country for two seasons and has accumulated more than $850,000 in earnings. But even though he has finished second in races such as the Arkansas Derby, Louisiana Derby, and Hollywood Gold Cup, he has yet to win a stakes race, a record trainer Beau Greely hopes to change when Borrego competes in the Grade 1, $1 million Pacific Classic on Sunday at Del Mar.
"I'd like to win a stake with him," Greely said Monday, after Borrego worked five furlongs in 1:01.60 at Santa Anita. "He's won $850,000, but I don't know if I've done a good training job with him, because he hasn't won a stake. We did buy him back for $20,000, so I guess we're doing okay. His time is coming."
Borrego was a distant second to Lava Man in the Gold Cup in July and was fourth to Lava Man in the Californian in June, both at Hollywood Park. Earlier this year, Borrego was third in the Santa Anita Handicap, behind Rock Hard Ten and Congrats. Del Mar's track plays more like Santa Anita's, which Greely said gives him hope that Borrego's late charge will be more effective here.
"The Del Mar track is fair," Greely said. "At Hollywood, he had no shot. The last month and a half or two months there, nothing closed. I hope he gets an honest track."
Greely clearly believes that Borrego prefers races at 1 1/4 miles, having started him this year in the Santa Anita Handicap, Gold Cup, and now the Pacific Classic. Greely said his long-term goal this year is the Breeders' Cup Classic, which is also at 1 1/4 miles, at Belmont Park.
Greely said Borrego has not left California this year, so he should be a fresh horse for the Breeders' Cup.
"He'd just have to ship once," Greely said. "I realize that's a long ways away, but we've been kind of planning on that since the start of the year."
Borrego has trained at Santa Anita in recent weeks. Greely said Borrego would be sent by van to Del Mar on Wednesday. Entries for the Pacific Classic will be taken, and post positions drawn, on Wednesday night at a prerace party.
In addition to Borrego, who will be ridden by Garrett Gomez, those expected for the Pacific Classic include Ace Blue (David Flores the rider), Choctaw Nation (Victor Espinoza), Congrats (Tyler Baze), Lava Man (Patrick Valenzuela), Musique Toujours (Jorge Chavez), Perfect Drift (Mark Guidry), Super Frolic (Jason Lumpkins), Surf Cat (Alex Solis), and possibly Island Fashion and Oceanus.
Bluesthestandard doing well after pulling up
Concern rippled through the track Sunday, when fan favorite Bluesthestandard was pulled up on the far turn in the fifth race by Espinoza, but Bluesthestandard was doing well Monday morning, according to trainer Bill Spawr, who won a four-way claiming shake for Bluesthestandard after the race. He had been trained for his last three starts by Jeff Mullins.
"So far, he's fine," Spawr said at his barn Monday morning. "We had him out this morning to jog up and down the road, and he was fine. There's no heat, no swelling. Victor told me he took a bad step, and he didn't feel comfortable, so he pulled him up.
"He was walking sound after the race. Maybe we got lucky and he just stepped on something. He's standing on both front legs like nothing's wrong, but we'll be cautious with respect to what happened and take our time with him."
An 8-year-old gelding, Bluesthestandard rose from a $10,000 claimer in March 2002 to finish second in the 2003 Breeders' Cup Sprint. His stakes wins include the Potrero Grande Handicap and Palos Verdes Handicap, both at Santa Anita. He was racing for a $50,000 claiming price Sunday after winning for $40,000 in his previous start.
Spawr admitted he didn't want to win the shake after Bluesthestandard was pulled up.
"At the time, you don't know how serious it is, so you'd rather not," Spawr said. "The percentages are against you."
What a Song's next at Del Mar or Belmont
What a Song, who remained undefeated with his victory in the on Sunday, will make his next start in the Grade 2, $250,000 Del Mar Futurity on closing day here Sept. 7 or head to New York for the Grade 2, $300,000 Belmont Futurity on Sept. 17, trainer Bob Baffert said Monday.
"If What a Song runs here, Enforcement will go to the Belmont Futurity," Baffert said. Both colts are owned by Bob and Beverly Lewis.
One Union, a 2-year-old first-time starter, joined the list of candidates for the Del Mar Futurity with an impressive victory in Saturday's seventh race.
Ridden by Victor Espinoza, One Union took the lead at the start, was passed by Dinner Magic in early stretch, but fought back along the inside to retake the lead and draw off to win by 1 1/4 lengths.
"He looked like he was intimidated in there, and then Victor schooled him and made him more scared of him than that other horse," said trainer Richard Mandella.
One Union finished 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:03.40, earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 99. Mandella said he was impressed with One Union's effort through the stretch.
"It's hard to teach him that," Mandella said.
Owned by Herman Sarkowsky, One Union will attempt to give Mandella his second win in the Futurity; Mandella won the race in 2003 with Siphonizer.
Handle is up, attendance is down
Mutuel handle was higher but attendance figures were down at Saturday's halfway point of the Del Mar meeting.
According to chief financial officer Mike Ernst, ontrack average attendance is down 4.2 percent, but average ontrack handle has increased 3.3 percent after 22 days of the 43-day meeting. When statewide and nationwide handle sources are included, the all-sources average handle is up 3.7 percent, to $13.2 million.
"In the wagering and purse side of the equation, the numbers are real strong," Ernst said.
Ernst said that Del Mar was down 6 percent in average ontrack attendance through Friday, but made up nearly 2 percentage points by drawing 35,626 on Saturday. A rock concert after the races attracted a large crowd.
Ernst said he expects strong attendance and handle this weekend.
"We expected to be off a little," Ernst said of the attendance. "Catch-up weekend is next weekend."
The higher handle could lead to a retroactive purse increase later this year, pending business in coming weeks. The meeting ends Sept. 7. The track has made a retroactive purse increase in the last two years, distributing as much as $1 million in December to owners whose horses earned purses at the meeting.
"I guess the Del Mar Christmas present is a nice little tradition," Ernst said.
Valenzuela loses appeal on suspension
Jockey Patrick Valenzuela was denied a stay of his five-day suspension from last week.
Valenzuela was suspended from Monday through Saturday for causing interference at the top of the stretch in the second race Aug. 10. Valenzuela's mount, Princess Kinzie, was disqualified from second to third.
Valenzuela asked the California Horse Racing Board for a stay but it was denied, according to his agent, Ron Ebanks. Ebanks said the denial was issued late on Friday afternoon, giving Valenzuela no time to turn to Superior Court for a temporary restraining order. Entries for Monday's program were taken Saturday morning.
"They left us with no time," Ebanks said. "We thought it was an unfair call. We were so frustrated."
Valenzuela will be allowed to ride designated races, or graded stakes, during the suspension. He is booked on Resplendency in Friday's Rancho Bernardo Handicap and Rich in Spirit in Saturday's Del Mar Oaks.
Valenzuela, who rode at Arlington Park on Saturday and Mountaineer Park on Sunday, lost his lead in the Del Mar jockey standings Sunday and trails Garrett Gomez, 26-25.
Bettors affected by TVG glitch get credit
TVG, the account-wagering service, has credited winning bets to account holders whose bets were not transmitted through their system into Del Mar's pools for the first two races last Thursday, according to John Hindman, TVG's vice president of communications and general counsel.
Bettors who thought they had winning bets checked their accounts after those races last Thursday and found no increase in balances.
The accounts were credited over the weekend, Hindman said.
"The communications leg between our tote and Del Mar's tote went down," Hindman said. "Those wagers were not transmitted into Del Mar's pool. We're trying to make sure the negative impact [for customers] has been addressed. It takes a while to figure out all the people that were impacted and what their impact was."
- additional reporting by Steve Andersen