01/14/2006 1:00AM

Del Mar seeks funds for Polytrack surface


ARCADIA, Calif. - Del Mar is pursuing financing from government sources for a Polytrack racing surface, but the lack of a final budget for the new surface and a limited amount of time before the meet begins may prevent Polytrack from being installed for the 2006 season.

Racetrack officials, several prominent horsemen, and members of the California Horse Racing Board appeared before the 22nd District Agricultural Association's district board on Tuesday to ask for financing approval. The proposal was not approved by the agricultural association because the final cost is unclear, according to a Del Mar vice president, Craig Fravel.

The agricultural association owns the Del Mar fairgrounds, where the racetrack is located.

A Polytrack surface has an estimated cost of $7 million, but Fravel said financial issues related to sand acquisition and treating the sand to create the synthetic Polytrack surface have prevented the track from completing its budget.

Fravel said another proposal could be presented to the agricultural association "within a month" after further meetings are held. The plan must also be approved by the State Coastal Commission.

"They weren't in a position to approve it at this meeting, but in a month or so hopefully they'll be in a position," he said of the agricultural panel. "They can't approve anything definitive, because there is not a price."

Polytrack, a synthetic surface popular in England, was installed at Turfway Park in Kentucky last summer and is in use on Keeneland's training track.

Fravel said installation before Del Mar's 2006 meeting begins in late July may be difficult.

"I wouldn't say it's out, but we have to go through the coastal commission, and it's a lengthy process to go through the mixing process," he said, referring to the development of the racetrack material.

"Our basic premise is we want to make sure that when we do it, we do it right and don't cut any corners."

Fravel said he will meet in Sacramento with the agricultural association's leasing commission on Friday. The leasing commission could give tentative approval to the Polytrack installation based on budget estimates.

If that occurs, Del Mar "will go back to the fair board and put together a final budget," Fravel said.

Baffert muses over Triple Crown

After watching Point Determined score a flashy maiden win on Friday, Bob Baffert was ready to take on the racing world with his 3-year-old crop.

"This is the year I'm going to win the Triple Crown," he said, sporting a goofy grin. "Because there is no bonus."

Three times in the last nine years, Baffert has won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes and needed a win in the Belmont Stakes to collect a $5 million bonus for his clients. Silver Charm (1997), Real Quiet (1998) and War Emblem (2002) won the first two legs but were beaten in the Belmont.

Lacking a corporate sponsor, the Triple Crown has no bonus in effect this year.

There is a lot of racing between now and the Triple Crown, but Baffert is ecstatic about his 3-year-old division - and Point Determined's performance.

Point Determined moved forward on a Baffert team that includes the sprinter Too Much Bling; Bob and John, who finished third in the Hollywood Futurity; and Wanna Runner, who started in Saturday's San Rafael Stakes.

Bob and John worked six furlongs in 1:14.40 on Saturday. He is being pointed for the Sham Stakes on Feb. 4. Too Much Bling, the winner of the San Miguel Stakes on Jan. 8, may start in the San Vicente Stakes over seven furlongs on Feb. 12.

Point Determined ($3.40) ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.08, finishing 5 1/2 lengths in front of stablemate Royal Legacy. Both are owned by Bob and Beverly Lewis, who owned Silver Charm.

Point Determined was always near the front in Friday's race. He stalked Royal Legacy to the final turn and rallied wide to take the lead.

Such a result would have seemed improbable a few months ago, Baffert said.

"He was useless, but he woke up in the last 30 days," Baffert said. "He's just learning how to run, this dude."

San Marcos draws a crowd

The $150,000 San Marcos Stakes on Sunday will have a couple of familiar names. Whilly, the defending champion, and The Tin Man, who finished second in 2003, are among the probable starters.

Whilly has not started since finishing second and being demoted to fifth for causing interference in the Clement Hirsch Handicap in October. The Tin Man, who has been plagued by injuries, returned from a layoff of nearly 14 months to win an allowance race here on Dec. 28.

Because the California turf marathon division lacks a clear leader, the San Marcos should have a large field. The race drew 25 nominations, a high number for a California stakes.

Estevan, a stakes winner at Woodbine in November, is likely to run. He rallied from last of nine to finish fourth in the Grade 2 San Gabriel Handicap here on Jan. 1.