06/05/2008 11:00PM

Del Mar makes back payment


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Del Mar is making a retroactive purse payment of approximately $126,000 to owners whose horses earn purses in overnight races at the 2007 meeting, and it will carry a positive balance of $400,000 for purses at its upcoming meeting, track officials said Thursday.

Despite the positive cash flow, the track does not plan to raise purses in advance of the 2008 meeting, which runs from July 16 to Sept. 3. Explaining the conservative approach, track officials cited concern over wagering trends at Southern California meetings this year and regional economic conditions.

"Right now, we're holding firm," said Del Mar's director of racing, Tom Robbins. "We'll offer the same overnight structure as last year, with some caveat and permission from [the Thoroughbred Owners of California] that it might change."

Del Mar's chief financial officer, Mike Ernst, said some San Diego-area tourist attractions are "down a couple of percentage points" in business, leaving track executives fearing that higher gas prices could prevent some visitors from traveling to the track. He said that 40 percent of the track's business comes from outside of San Diego County.

"You never know what wagering will look like with the slowing economy," Ernst said.

Growth in advance-deposit wagering during the current Hollywood Park spring-summer meeting, and the Santa Anita winter-spring meeting earlier this year, has helped offset ontrack losses at those tracks. There are hints that Del Mar's ontrack business may not suffer badly, Ernst said.

Ernst said he was hopeful that advance-deposit wagering would be strong, and said "our advance sales are slightly up over last year."

"I certainly think we'll have the local attendance," Ernst said, but a question remained over per-capita spending: "Will they wager less and drink one less margarita?"

Del Mar has a history of being conservative with purse estimates and then making retroactive payments when revenue is assessed months after the conclusion of a meeting. The track made a retroactive purse payment annually from 2003 to 2005. The retroactive payment for the 2005 meeting was $1 million.

Robbins said the retroactive payments from the 2007 meeting will be distributed in coming days.

Bob Black Jack turned out

Bob Black Jack, the world-record holder at six furlongs who was 16th in the Kentucky Derby on May 3, has been turned out after failing to train well in recent weeks, trainer James Kasparoff said Friday.

Bob Black Jack will be given three months off with the intention of a return for the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes at Santa Anita on Dec. 26, Kasparoff said.

"I breezed him on Sunday, and I didn't like the way he came back," Kasparoff said Friday. "He'd lost some weight with the Kentucky deal. I wasn't happy with the horse. I thought the time off would be the way to go. I had to send him to the farm a couple of days ago."

Kasparoff said that Bob Black Jack was not injured.

"It's preventative maintenance," he said. "There is no injury. I felt like it was time for it. We'll try to focus on bringing him back in the Malibu."

Bob Black Jack set the pace to the final turn in the Kentucky Derby before fading from contention. After the Kentucky Derby, Kasparoff said the $100,000 Affirmed Handicap at Hollywood on June 15 was a goal.

Owned by Jeff Harmon and Tim Kasparoff, Bob Black Jack has won 3 of 8 starts and $442,925. He set a six-furlong world record of 1:06.53 in the Sunshine Millions Dash at Santa Anita in January and later finished second in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby.

Bob Black Jack's defection makes him the second major 3-year-old to be pulled out of training in California this week. Trainer Craig Dollase said on Wednesday that El Gato Malo, a three-time stakes winner, is out until the fall because of "wear and tear."

Cousin of Solis hits town

Michael Martinez, a leading apprentice in Panama and a cousin of jockey Alex Solis, has arrived in Southern California and will begin his career here in coming weeks, according to Solis and Martinez's agent, Alex Procel Crowley.

Martinez, 21, has won 40 races in Panama. He was scheduled to meet with stewards this week to gain a license and will work horses for a week before taking mounts, Crowley said.

Martinez began riding in December after completing Panama's school for jockeys, Crowley said.

Epic Power pointed for stakes

Epic Power, disqualified from first to fifth in an optional claimer in Thursday's second race at Hollywood Park, will be pointed for the $125,000 California Dreamin' Handicap at Del Mar on Aug. 2, trainer Jack Carava said Friday.

A day after the race, Carava was still seething about the stewards' decision to disqualify Epic Power and place him last in the small field for causing interference in the stretch. Epic Power appeared to drift to the inside, forcing the runner-up, Hello Sunday, and original last-place finisher, Fight On, to be taken up.

The stewards made their decision after reviewing video of the race for seven minutes.

"I thought they'd do what they did, but I was hoping they wouldn't," Carava said. "My jockey came over about a half an inch and got taken down."

Owned by La Canada Stables, Epic Power, 7, has won 12 of 58 starts and $689,073. He was runner-up in the 2007 California Dreamin' Handicap to Bold Chieftain.

Nice-looking debut

Kelly Leak, a colt by Runaway Groom, made a sharp debut in Thursday's eighth race for 2-year-old maidens, a performance expected to lead to a stakes appearance at Del Mar.

Ridden by Victor Espinoza, Kelly Leak closed from fourth to win the five-furlong race by 1 1/4 lengths over 34-1 Massone in 57.72 seconds. Kelly Leak is trained by Mike Machowsky.

"He was pretty green," Machowsky said. "Victor said he got into him on the turn and he took off. He's trained like he's very talented."

Machowsky said the $150,000 Best Pal at Del Mar on Aug. 10 or an allowance are his short-term goals.

"I'll know more in two weeks when I get him going again," Machowsky said.