12/14/2007 1:00AM

Colonel John will face plenty of challengers

EmailARCADIA, Calif. - A probable field of 13 starters for the $750,000 CashCall Futurity at Hollywood Park next Saturday has caught trainer Eoin Harty by surprise. Harty did not envision that many challengers for his horse Colonel John, who will go favored.

"I didn't think of that," he said.

A lucrative purse, and the fact that this is the final Grade 1 of the year for the division, has made the Futurity attractive to the owners and trainers of many promising 2-year-old males. Even with a large field, Harty remains confident.

"I like my chances," Harty said. "I know he's a quality horse and proven at the distance. I've still got to beat 12 or 13 others."

Owned by WinStar Farm, Colonel John has won 2 of 3 starts. After finishing second in his debut at Del Mar in August, Colonel John beat maidens by 4 1/2 lengths at Santa Anita on Oct. 7. In his stakes debut in the Real Quiet Stakes here on Nov. 18, and his first race at the Futurity distance of 1o1/16 miles, Colonel John rallied from sixth to win by three lengths.

"He's an intelligent horse and he seems to learn something all the time," Harty said.

The Futurity field is expected to include Eaton's Gift, Indian Sun, Into Mischief, Massive Drama, Meal Penalty, Monba, Old Man Buck, Referee, Shore Do, Sierra Sunset, Slew's Tiznow, and Tres Borrachos.

Harty considers Massive Drama and Into Mischief, the first two finishers of the Hollywood Prevue Stakes on Nov. 22, to be his biggest fears.

Massive Drama, unbeaten in two starts, is trained by Bob Baffert. Harty was an assistant to Baffert during the 1990s, when that stable featured such popular horses as the Kentucky Derby winners Real Quiet and Silver Charm.

"You can't discount Baffert," Harty said. "He has a way of winning these things."

Harty expects improvement from Into Mischief, who is trained by Richard Mandella. Harty was impressed by one of Into Mischief's recent workouts.

"He galloped out super strong," Harty said. "I think he'll be a serious threat."

The Futurity is the main race on the final day of the fall meeting. There is no racing at Hollywood Park on Wednesday and Thursday. The meeting resumes on Friday, with a program highlighted by the Cat's Cradle Handicap for statebred fillies and mares.

Santa Anita opens its winter-spring meeting on Dec. 26.

Sadler on verge of first training title

Zappa's win in Friday's first race gave trainer John Sadler his 18th win of the meeting, and left him seven wins clear of Mike Mitchell with less than five days of racing remaining. While Sadler has not technically clinched the title, it is unlikely that Mitchell will close the gap before the final day, Dec. 22.

"It's pretty much over going into a short week," Sadler said.

Sadler, 51, is seeking his first training title.

Zappa's win helped to push Sadler's stable past $5 million in earnings this year, a personal best.

Zappa, a 5-year-old owned by Gary and Cecil Barber, won a $61,828 allowance race by a length, closing from last in a field of five. Ridden by Joel Rosario, Zappa ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:40.96 over a track that has played fast throughout the meeting.

It was the third victory in the last four starts for Zappa, who was running in claiming races with values ranging from $20,000 to $40,000 earlier this year. In his career, Zappa has won 10 of 26 starts and $235,220. This year, he has earned $165,930.

"He's an improving horse," Sadler said. "Where he ends up, I don't know."

Celtic Dreamin, second in the California Cup Classic on Nov. 3, finished second as the 1-2 favorite, a half-length in front of pacesetter Sahara Heat. Albertus Maximus, second in two stakes earlier this year, finished fourth after pressing the early pace.

Owners will begin donating to charity

The California Horse Racing Board approved a rule change on Friday that will redirect 0.3 percent of purses earned by owners to a program that will fund retirement facilities for Thoroughbreds in California.

By a vote of 4-2, the California Retirement Management Account was approved at Friday's racing board meeting and will go into effect in 2008.

The program will automatically deduct funds from the net purses earned by an owner unless the owner makes a written request to a track's paymaster of purses not to be included in the program.

Racing board commissioner John Harris, a leading owner and breeder in the state, voted against the rule change, questioning whether owners should be given the option of participating instead of being automatically enrolled. Furthermore, Harris questioned whether the deduction should be more than 0.3 percent.

Commissioner John Andreini also voted against the rule change, which was supported by commissioners John Amerman, Jesse Choper, and Jerry Moss, and chairman Richard Shapiro.

The retirement program will be set up as a charity, according to Marsha Naify, the chair of the Thoroughbred Owners of California's board of directors.

Madeline Auerbach, who sits on the TOC board, said that other organizations in racing, including jockeys, trainers, and racetracks, will be asked to financially support the program.

"If owners don't take on this task, who will?" she asked. "Everyone in this industry should participate."

The racing board gave final approval to a health insurance program for California jockeys, former jockeys, and their dependents, which will take effect on Jan. 1. The plan will be funded by uncashed mutuel tickets, and will cover health, vision, dental, and disability insurance.

Back-to-back wins for Aguirre

Trainer Paul Aguirre, whose stable had a slow start to the meeting with just one win from his first 18 starters, had a perfect day on Friday, winning with his only two starters. Aguirre won the second race with Carmel Coffee ($4.80) and the third race with Justinplace ($7.80).

The $2 double linking those two horses paid $23.40. Both horses are owned by Shimamura Racing and were ridden by Joe Talamo.