10/24/2007 12:00AM

Del Mar shelters 2,000 head

EmailDel Mar's backstretch has become a temporary refuge for approximately 2,000 horses that were relocated to the seaside track because of the raging fires in San Diego County.

A Del Mar vice president, Craig Fravel, said demand for space was so high for horses that temporary pens were being constructed in a horse arena adjacent to the racetrack.

"We've doubled up horses in some stalls," Fravel said.

In addition, the racetrack, which is on the county fair grounds, has served as a staging area for National Guard troops and paramedics, Fravel said. Fravel said that Del Mar has closed its offices this week and that many employees were forced to evacuate their homes because of the fires.

Despite warnings about poor air quality throughout the region, racing continued Wednesday at the Oak Tree at Santa Anita meeting in Arcadia, about 120 miles from San Diego and about 40 miles from the Malibu area, which also has several fires.

Trainer Gary Mandella said the horses in his stable had not suffered from the poor air.

"I haven't seen anything so far, but I'm worried," he said. "You have to worry about horses breathing in soot."