04/23/2009 11:00PM

Del Mar to restore overnight purses

Benoit & Associates
Desert Code will get some time off before preparing to defend his BC Turf Sprint title.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Overnight purses at Del Mar this summer will begin at the same level as the 2008 meeting, even though the track was forced to cut purses last summer because of slow business, director of racing Tom Robbins said Thursday.

Robbins said that a variety of factors have led Del Mar to restore overnight purses to same level as the start of the 2008 meeting. The track announced its stakes schedule for 2009 earlier this week, cutting the value of 12 stakes, while raising two races. The meeting runs from July 22 to Sept. 9.

Some money from the stakes cuts could be directed to overnight purses. In addition, recently passed legislation to remove license fees, which tracks paid to conduct racing in the state, and the elimination of racing on most Mondays this summer has led to a reconfiguration of economic expectations, Robbins said. Del Mar plans to add a race a day on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays to make up for the absence of Mondays, track officials said earlier this year.

"Unless the bottom falls out of the economy, with the license-fee relief and the reduction of the monies in stakes, and reshuffling some races by the elimination of Mondays and adding back races on days with higher [handle] production, we should be able to achieve those numbers," he said.

If purses are restored to the level of the start of the 2008 meeting, Del Mar would be the first track in Southern California not to cut purses at the start of its meeting this year. Santa Anita and Hollywood Park began their seasons this year with reduced purses.

Del Mar was forced to cut overnight purses by 3.5 percent for the final half of the 2008 meeting because of slower than expected business. As a result, a purse for a maiden special weight race for sprinters was cut from $53,000 to $50,000, and a similar race around two turns was cut from $56,000 to $53,000. This year, maiden special weight races will start with purses of $53,000 or $56,000, depending on distance.

"I think we have a chance to get back to those levels," Robbins said. "We're trying to get some horses to return and participate in 37 days of racing. We think our overnights will be at the highest level they've been."

Allicansayis Wow wins in dramatic fashion

In the stretch of Thursday's seventh race at Hollywood Park, Allicansayis Wow went from nearly falling while racing in traffic to scoring arguably the most exciting win of the year in California.

The happiest person was jockey Joe Talamo, who avoided injury. He nearly came off the 4-year-old filly a little more than week before he is scheduled to ride I Want Revenge in Saturday's Kentucky Derby.

Allicansayis Wow was racing just behind the leaders in an optional claimer at 1 1/16 miles on the main track when Talamo tried to rally between rivals. Just as he got to the gap, the space closed, and Allicansayis Wow stumbled badly when she clipped heels.

Talamo maintained his balance and urged the filly between horses to win by a neck over Lullabytime.

"I was waiting for room," Talamo said. "Just as I tried to go through, they came back together."

Trained by Patrick Biancone, Allicansayis Wow was stakes-placed on Polytrack in Ireland last year. Biancone said she was "very difficult" to train in Europe last year. He said he would like to start her in another allowance race for her next start.

Harrington has high hopes for Alpine Empire

Alpine Empire had a flawless start to her career in Thursday's first race, winning a maiden race for 2-year-old California-bred fillies by five lengths. The win has trainer Mike Harrington contemplating a start in the $70,000 Cinderella Stakes at 5 1/2 furlongs on June 10 for a filly that he describes as an overachiever.

"She wasn't all out by any means," he said of Thursday's race. "I really didn't want to get in a hurry with this filly, but she's taken over the training process herself."

Owned by breeder Heinz Steinmann, Alpine Empire is by Empire Maker, a stallion whose pedigree suggests stamina and not necessarily speed. Alpine Empire worked quickly on several occasions in recent weeks, leading Harrington to start her in the first maiden race for 2-year-old fillies around a turn this spring in Southern California.

"She's not supposed to be a sprinter," he said. "She's blessed with natural ability."

Ridden by Rafael Bejarano, Alpine Empire fought off a brief challenge from Gale Schoonover before taking a one-length lead in the stretch. She pulled away from five rivals in the stretch, finishing in 51.32 seconds.

Alpine Empire raced without shoes and has not worn shoes since she began training, Harrington said.

"She's never had any shoes on her since I've had her," he said.

Grace Upon Grace was the first 2-year-old winner of the meeting in a maiden race at 4 1/2 furlongs for statebreds Wednesday. Grace Upon Grace finished a head in front of the Harrington-trained Really Uptown.

Grace Upon Grace led throughout and was timed in 51.34 seconds. Trained by Walther Solis, she was ridden by Danny Sorenson.

"I was a little surprised that [Really Uptown] didn't take the lead from us," Solis said.

Solis said Grace Upon Grace, who is by Rio Verde, will be pointed for the $70,000 Willard Proctor Memorial Stakes at 5 1/2 furlongs on June 3.

"We want to keep him fresh for that race," Solis said.

Solis appreciated the win. He said his stable has had several 2-year-olds go to the sidelines with tibia injuries in recent weeks that will require them to be rested for several months.

Desert Code getting some time off

Desert Code, winner of the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint last fall, will be given a break after finishing last in the San Simeon Handicap at Santa Anita last weekend.

Trainer David Hofmans said Desert Code will not start at the current Hollywood Park meeting and will be pointed for a defense of his Turf Sprint title at Santa Anita in November, with a start in the Morvich Handicap early in the Oak Tree at Santa Anita meeting in late September or early October.

"I'd like to run him in the Morvich and one more prep before that," Hofmans said.

Desert Code won the Grade 3 Daytona Handicap on the hillside turf course Feb. 15 but was well-beaten in two starts in April, finishing eighth in the Grade 2 Arcadia Handicap and 8 1/4 lengths behind race winner Mr Gruff in the San Simeon.

* Bejarano, who has won six consecutive riding titles at major tracks in Southern California, will ride in Kentucky for most of next week. Bejarano will ride Wednesday through Saturday at Churchill Downs, including Papa Clem in Saturday's Kentucky Derby, and will return to Hollywood Park for the May 3 program.