07/20/2006 12:00AM

Crowd, handle break opening-day records

Email

DEL MAR, Calif. - Del Mar set records on Wednesday for opening day all-sources handle and attendance, and came close to setting an all-time track attendance record.

On a warm, muggy afternoon, Del Mar drew a crowd of 42,005, the second-highest in track history. The record of 44,181 was set on Pacific Classic Day in 1996 when Dare and Go upset Cigar.

Wednesday's handle of $15,004,264 was not among the highest in track history but was $36,434, or 0.2 percent, higher than last year's figure. Wednesday's ontrack handle of $4,638,934 was down $34,957, or 0.7 percent, from last year.

Typical of Del Mar's recent opening days, Wednesday's crowd was younger than most racetrack crowds.

"Opening day has taken on a life of its own," track president Joe Harper said. "It's turned out to be the place to be. I don't think there was anybody in San Diego that didn't know we were open."

Del Mar set a meet record for all-sources handle last year of $608 million, the fourth consecutive year the track set a record in that category. Beating that figure is a goal this year, Harper said.

"We need to get the people back," Harper said of the opening day audience. "Hopefully we have it set up to have another big year."

Solis sweeps stakes

Jockey Alex Solis won both divisions of Wednesday's Oceanside Stakes for 3-year-olds aboard Lightning Hit and Obrigado.

Lightning Hit and Obrigado were fitted with blinkers for the first time. Lightning Hit rallied from last to win the $83,550 first division, while Obrigado overcame trouble to win the $84,550 second division.

Lightning Hit ($9.20) finished a mile on turf in 1:34.12. He was last for the first six furlongs as One Union and The Five J's set quick fractions of 21.59 and 44.89 seconds.

Solis brought Lightning Hit wide on the final turn and caught One Union in the final strides.

"The pace helped him," trainer Ron McAnally said of Lightning Hit. "It was good the way it set up."

Lightning Hit finished a head in front of One Union. Get Funky finished third, a nose behind One Union.

Owned by Tom Lenner, Lightning Hit has won $110,439. Lightning Hit had been second or third in his first four starts in the United States.

Obrigado was timed in 1:34.20. He finished a head in front of Porto Santo, but both had troubled trips through the stretch. New Joysey Jeff, who finished third, drifted out badly in the stretch, forcing Solis on Obrigado and Victor Espinoza on Porto Santo to check their mounts.

The stewards conducted an inquiry but did not change the order of finish since New Joysey Jeff finished behind the affected horses.

Obrigado ($14), owned by Gary Seidler and Peter Vegso and trained by Neil Drysdale, has won 4 of 10 and $99,654. The Oceanside was his third start since arriving from France.

The race was marred when Blazing Sunset, second in the Iowa Derby last month, suffered fractured sesamoids to his right foreleg and was euthanized, track officials said.