10/28/2005 12:00AM

Continental Red, 9, is retired

Benoit & Associates
Continental Red won the San Luis Rey in 2002.

ARCADIA, Calif. - Time finally caught up with Continental Red, the durable 9-year-old gelding who earned $1,363,788 the hard way - by showing up. Owner-breeder Weston Fitzpatrick said Friday that Continental Red - 16th on the list of all-time Cal-bred money winners and the leading active earner - has been retired after a relentless 74-start career.

won just eight races, and only one graded stakes, but for the past eight racing seasons he was a hallmark of consistency. Continental Red's four stakes wins include the Grade 2 San Luis Rey in 2002. Overall, he placed in 18 stakes, 10 of them graded.

"He went beyond our wildest expectations - breeding him, campaigning him, and having such a long run with him at such a high level," said Fitzpatrick, who owns Continental Red with his wife, Sharon. "He was like owning your own franchise; the [San Luis Rey] was our Super Bowl."

Continental Red, by Flying Continental out of the dam Sharp Looking Lady, made his debut Oct. 4, 1998, at Santa Anita. He lost his first 10 starts, won for the first time on Nov. 11, 1999, and later found his niche as a marathon turf runner.

Continental Red's best year was 2002. He won or placed in six graded stakes, and was second in the California Cup Classic. The following year, Continental Red finished second in the Cal Cup Mile, and he was aiming for the 2005 Cal Cup when he came up sore.

"His X-rays were clean, but he was still a little ouchy," trainer Tony Gonzalez said.

Fitzpatrick said Continental Red could have returned, but the risk was not worth it.

"I had promised if this horse was not 100 percent he would be coming home," he said. "He's done far too much for Sharon and I. . . . I would never take a chance of something happening to him. He never had a joint injected, and I'm not about to start injecting ankles as a 9-year-old."

Continental Red will stay at Fitzpatrick's farm near Hemet, about 50 miles east of Los Angeles. The gelding was trained for most of his career by Ian Jory; Gonzalez trained him for his last seven starts, including his final career win in the $78,000 Quicken Tree on June 18, 2005, at Hollywood Park.

"He's been a dream," Fitzpatrick said of Continental Red, "more than anybody could have hoped for. And it's nice to have him home."

Desert Boom to return for Cal Cup Classic

Desert Boom will return to Southern California next weekend, and the 5-year-old will be one of the favorites for the $250,000 California Cup Classic. Desert Boom has won 14 races and $594,420 from 34 starts, and will be dropping in class after a good third-place finish behind Super Frolic in the Grade 2 Hawthorne Gold Cup. Since he was claimed by trainer Art Sherman and owner Bob Bone, Desert Boom has won 6 of 10.

"I think he got a little bit more mature, and he's got that win attitude," Sherman said. "He thinks he can beat you."

Sherman said Bobby Gonzalez would ride Desert Boom. Other expected Cal Cup Classic starters are Carano, Mr. Joe C, and Texcess.

Graded-stakes-winning sprinter McCann's Mojave worked seven furlongs Friday at Santa Anita (1:24.80) and will run in either the Classic or the $175,000 Cal Cup Mile. The $150,000 Cal Cup Sprint is expected to attract Unfurl the Flag, Proud Tower Too, Thor's Echo, and Jet West. The $150,000 Cal Cup Matron will include Dream of Summer and Proposed.

Five-win day puts Valenzuela in third

Patrick Valenzuela won with 5 of his 7 mounts on the eight-race Santa Anita card Thursday, the jockey's second day back after a weeklong absence caused by a sore foot. The five-win day boosted Valenzuela's spirits after he started the week in a bad mood.

Wednesday morning, the jockey said he was frustrated at media reporting of his absence.

"I really don't appreciate what the press is saying," Valenzuela said. "It's a bunch of [expletive] my past keeps coming up. It really makes me look bad. It's 'In the past, he's been this and this and this.' I'm tired of that. I'm not even going to talk to the press any more."

Valenzuela, whose career has been frequently interrupted because of substance-abuse problems, was to remain in New York on Sunday after riding in the Breeders' Cup on Saturday. He is expected to resume riding Wednesday at Santa Anita. Valenzuela's five-win day lifted him into third in the Oak Tree standings with 22 victories.

The last winner Valenzuela rode was Excess Temptations, a California-bred owned in part by Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Brad Penny. Trained by Howard Zucker, Excess Temptations won the first-condition turf allowance by two lengths in 1:34.29.

Promotion for club members gets an encore

If it works once, why not do it again? A successful ontrack promotion Wednesday by the Oak Tree Racing Association generated a 37 percent increase in ontrack handle, and will be replicated Friday.

Members of Santa Anita Thoroughbreds on Wednesday received free admission, parking, programs, and Daily Racing Forms. Despite a bleak eight-race card that included only 45 runners, 7,126 fans attended the races Wednesday and wagered $1.3 million. Oak Tree will offer the same program on Friday.

Oak Tree executive vice president Sherwood Chillingworth supports the program.

"We have seen dramatic increases in our ontrack handle and attendance with these promotions, and we're certainly hoping to have a similar result this coming Friday," Chillingworth said. "The market in which we operate has changed dramatically, and we need now more than ever to give people good reasons to participate ontrack."

The Tin Man, 7, works toward comeback

The 7-year-old gelding The Tin Man had a three-furlong workout Friday at Santa Anita and is preparing for his first start in more than a year. A Grade 1 winner who has won seven races and more than $1 million from 21 starts, The Tin Man has been sidelined with a strained ligament in the pastern.

"He's been gone a long time," said his trainer, Richard Mandella. "We're bringing him back real slow. He looks perfect right now, and it'll be fun to have him back."

The Tin Man worked three furlongs in 38.40 seconds, breezing. He has not raced since finishing fourth in the Grade 1 Clement L. Hirsch Handicap last Oct. 3.