12/08/2004 1:00AM

Del Mar hiking purses retroactively


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Del Mar will distribute a retroactive purse increase of $1 million from its 2004 meeting in the next week. The retroactive payments amount to a 7 percent increase in overnight purses.

This is the second consecutive year in which Del Mar has retroactively increased purses. Last fall, Del Mar made a retroactive payment of $500,959. California tracks seldom increase purses during a meeting when business is good, preferring to make retroactive payments in support of all owners who raced at the meeting.

Del Mar's announcement is a refreshing dose of good news for California horsemen, who have been hit with purse cuts at Hollywood Park and Santa Anita in the last 14 months. In late 2003, purses were cut at the Oak Tree at Santa Anita and Hollywood Park meetings. Earlier this year, Santa Anita cut purses 6.5 percent. Meetings at Hollywood Park this year began with purses that were lower than previous seasons.

As a result, Del Mar did not increase purses for the 2004 meeting despite a successful 2003 season.

"We were a little nervous this year to increase purses, because 2003 was such a banner year for us," said Michael Ernst, track CFO. "We looked around the state and saw what was happening and were a little cautious."

Del Mar set a record for total handle of $579,727,110 for the 2004 meeting. At the end of the meet track officials said the retroactive payment would be 4 percent, but it rose after revenue from simulcast wagering was calculated.

Ernst said that Del Mar will consider raising its overnight purses in advance of the 2005 meeting, which begins in July.

Milkshake legislation introduced

Legislation allowing the California Horse Racing Board to enact emergency regulations to test for excessive amounts of bicarbonate has been introduced by Assemblyman Jerome Horton.

According to a statement issued by Horton, the legislation would allow the racing board an exemption in drafting regulations to test for bicarbonate levels, which is intended to detect the banned practice of milkshaking. The exemption would apply to the section of the current law that requires blood or urine tests to be split into two samples so a second test can confirm or deny the findings of an initial positive test. Presumably, the exemption would speed a ruling on a positive test for a milkshake.

In the last few months, prerace tests have been conducted at Southern California tracks in an effort to detect milkshakes, cocktails delivered to horse's stomach through a tube via the nose. The milkshakes are believed to enhance a horse's endurance.

Last week, Santa Anita announced it would test all horses for excessive amounts of bicarbonate. The track announced a three-tier penalty structure for trainers who have a horse test in excess of the permitted level of total carbon dioxide, 37 millimoles per liter of plasma.

A first offense could lead to a trainer's barn being placed under surveillance for 45 days, and possible confinement of horses entered by that trainer in a detention barn on the day before racing. A second offense would prohibit a trainer from starting a horse for 15 race days. A third offense would lead to the trainer being banned from Santa Anita for a year.

Testing time for Tizbud

Tizbud did little to help his reputation when he finished fifth in the California Cup Classic in October, his first start of 2004. He was beaten 13 lengths by Cozy Guy in his first start since a win in the 2003 California Cup Classic.

The loss has given Tizbud's reappearance in Saturday's $100,000 Native Diver Handicap at Hollywood Park added significance.

A win in the Grade 3 Native Diver over 1 1/8 miles would greatly enhance Tizbud's chances of being among the six California-breds who will start in the $1 million Sunshine Millions Classic for California- and Florida-breds at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 29. First preference to the race is determined by wins or placings in graded stakes.

Tizbud, 5, has been plagued by injuries in his career. He has won 2 of 7 starts, and finished third in the Grade 2 San Fernando Breeders' Cup Stakes in 2003.

Trainer John Sadler says he was not discouraged by the loss in the California Cup, considering Tizbud was not ready in time for a prep race in September or October.

"We got a race into him," Sadler said. "He's trained steadily since that race."

The Native Diver is worth a fraction of the $250,000 California Cup, but will draw a stronger field. The probable starters include Dynever, who finished eighth in the Breeders' Cup Classic, and Supah Blitz, who has won 2 stakes in his last 3 starts.

"We need a good strong race," Sadler said. "I know Dynever is tough, but we think this is a good distance for our horse."

The trainer will see you now

Bart Edwards decided two years ago to switch careers, leaving a medical practice as a foot and ankle surgeon to join life on the backstretch.

Friday, Edwards, who trains a six-horse stable, will try for his first win at Hollywood Park when Teresa Belle starts in the first race.

Edwards was a foot and ankle surgeon near Oakland until he decided he had seen enough of medical bureaucracy. He worked for trainer Jack Van Berg in various capacities for nearly a year before striking out on his own in the summer of 2003 at Los Alamitos. He claimed his first horse for $2,000.

This year, Edwards, 49, has won 5 races from 19 starters, mostly dealing with cheaper horses who race at Los Alamitos and northern California. He moved his six-horse stable to Southern California earlier this fall. It will grow to nine next week when horses arrive from local farms.

Teresa Belle is making her first start for Edwards. She is winless in four starts, but is stretching out beyond sprints.

"She has a good chance to win," Edwards said.

The best horse in his six-horse stable is Grant Marty a Wish, the California-bred turf sprinter. He said he does not miss being a doctor.

"This is my full career," he said. "I look at Noble Threewitt still training at 93, and I figure there's a future in it for me.