06/08/2006 11:00PM

Del Mar conserving its purses

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Stevie Wonderboy, the injured champion 2-year-old of 2005, will move to the track next week.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Despite two purse increases in 2005, Del Mar is taking a cautious approach to overnight purses for the seven-week meeting that begins on July 19, with a top official expressing concern about a possible decline in business from a record season last year.

Overnight purses at the start of the forthcoming season will be the same as the conclusion of the 2005 meeting, but higher than the start of last year's meeting.

"It may be a conservative approach, but it's the approach [Del Mar] is taking," said Tom Robbins, the director of racing at Del Mar.

Del Mar increased overnight purses 5 percent during the 2005 meeting and made a $1 million retroactive payment last December to owners whose horses earned purse money in overnight races. The retroactive payment was caused by stronger-than-expected business in the final weeks of the meeting.

The 2006 purses will be the highest on the Southern California circuit. A maiden race at six furlongs will be worth $53,000, a $2,000 increase from the start of the 2005 Del Mar meeting. The same race at Santa Anita was worth $48,000 earlier this year and is worth $45,000 at the current Hollywood Park meeting.

"We've increased the stakes schedule approximately $400,000," Robbins said. "We're leaving ourselves some cushion in the event that ontrack business, or other sources that provide purse revenue, decline. We feel there could be a slight downturn."

Del Mar officials monitor business at the circuit's other tracks before finalizing purse levels. Santa Anita enjoyed gains earlier this year, but Hollywood Park's business has been flat in the first half of the current meeting.

"We're still watching business closely," Robbins said. "We're looking at overall handle."

Del Mar set records for all-sources handle ($608,168,297) and average daily handle ($14,143,448) during the 2005 meet. The average daily handle increased 4.8 percent from 2004.

The track has made a retroactive purse payment annually since 2003.

Rising Cross heading to American Oaks

Rising Cross, the runner-up in the English Oaks on June 2, is expected to start in the $750,000 American Oaks on July 2, English trainer John Best confirmed on Friday.

Best said Rising Cross is in the process of being sold to an American owner, but declined to reveal specifics since the sale has not been finalized. "It hasn't gone through yet," he said.

Best has mapped out a busy schedule in coming weeks for Rising Cross. She is scheduled to run in the Italian Oaks in Milan on June 18, then ship to California for the American Oaks. "Of all the horses I have, she wouldn't be fazed by it at all," he said of the travel.

Rising Cross has won 4 of 13 starts, including the Lupe Stakes at Goodwood, England, at 1 1/4 miles on turf on May 6.

Hollywood Park officials have yet to release a list of invitations for the American Oaks, which is run at 1 1/4 miles on turf for 3-year-old fillies. The field is expected to include Asahi Rising, who finished second in the Japanese Oaks last month, and perhaps Attima and Foxysox, the first two finishers of the Honeymoon Breeders' Cup Handicap last weekend.

The $750,000 CashCall Mile on turf here on July 1 will have a strong field, including the Japanese filly Dance in the Mood, who was second in the 2004 American Oaks, and Shining Energy and Dancing Edie, the the first two finishers of the Gamely Breeders' Cup Stakes on May 29. The first three finishers of the Gamely received automatic berths. It is unclear whether third-place finisher Argentina will start in the CashCall Mile.

Stevie Wonderboy to relocate

Stevie Wonderboy, the champion 2-year-old male of 2005, will rejoin trainer Doug O'Neill's stable at Hollywood Park next week, nearly four months after going to the sidelines with a cannon bone injury.

Stevie Wonderboy has been based at owner Merv Griffin's ranch in the California desert in recent weeks. Even though he is returning to Hollywood Park, Stevie Wonderboy will not begin extensive exercise for several weeks. O'Neill said conditions at Hollywood Park would better suit Stevie Wonderboy.

"It gets pretty toasty in La Quinta," O'Neill said. "We feel it will be better for the horse to come in here. When he comes back, he needs a month of tack-walking. He'll walk for a half-hour a day, getting used to carrying the weight."

O'Neill said Stevie Wonderboy will be pointed for the Santa Anita winter meeting.

"The Breeders' Cup is not realistic," he said of the championship races at Churchill Downs on Nov. 4. "We want him at full strength when he's back in business. Hopefully, he'll have a big 2007 at Santa Anita."

Cobalt Blue impressive in maiden win

The Griffin-O'Neill team has a 2-year-old to follow in Cobalt Blue, the winner of a five-furlong maiden race at Hollywood Park on Thursday.

Ridden by Patrick Valenzuela, Cobalt Blue ($9) closed from fifth to catch pacesetter Future Search in the final strides and win by a neck.

"He didn't get to rolling until the sixteenth pole," Valenzuela said.

The come-from-behind victory by the Golden Missile colt surprised O'Neill.

"There was a little bit of a panic," he said. "You see a lot of Golden Missiles with speed. We never asked him for a lot of speed. Everything has been built toward endurance."

Cobalt Blue was timed in 58.24 seconds. He will be considered for the $100,000 Hollywood Juvenile Championship on July 4.