07/15/2005 12:00AM

Del Mar stakes will have heavy McAnally flavor

Ron McAnally

Hall of Fame trainer Ron McAnally will have a good idea very early at Del Mar what impact his stable will have in the meeting's major stakes.

McAnally will have as many as four starters in Wednesday's opening-day feature, the Oceanside Stakes for 3-year-olds over a mile on turf. The race is expected to be split for the 17th consecutive year because of strong entries, which is great news for McAnally. He has nominated Avanti Avanti, In Excelsis, Lucky Bid, and Mighty Empire. Avanti Avanti and In Excelsis each won an allowance race at Hollywood Park in his last start.

Should any of those four win or place in the Oceanside, they would become contenders for the $400,000 Del Mar Derby on Sept. 5.

Next Sunday, McAnally will have two leading contenders in a tough running of the $400,000 Eddie Read Handicap - Fast and Furious and Sweet Return.

McAnally refuses to make a prediction for the meeting, but he does like his roster.

"I've gone into meetings like that, thinking you are loaded, and you come out with your tail tucked behind you," he said. "Then, we've gone in there thinking we have no chance and done well."

Fast and Furious finished sixth in the American Handicap on July 3 after finishing third in the Shoemaker Mile in May. The loss in the American left McAnally and jockey Victor Espinoza confused.

"I thought he would run well," McAnally said. "Victor thought the turf might have been stinging him a little bit. He might have bounced off that first race."

Sweet Return, a candidate for the Arlington Million in August, is coming off a front-running win in the Charles Whittingham Handicap in June.

McAnally will not have a starter in Saturday's $400,000 John Mabee Handicap, a Grade 1 over 1 1/8 miles on turf for fillies and mares. In May, McAnally finished one-two in the Gamely Breeders' Cup Handicap with Mea Domina and Solar Echo, but neither is ready for the Mabee.

Mea Domina is recovering from a quarter crack, while Solar Echo is only in light training after a break.

"She has been battling little problems," McAnally said.

Opening week stakes coming up strong

There are six Grade 1 stakes at Del Mar, which runs through Sept. 7, and two of those races are on the opening weekend - the Eddie Read and Mabee. Both are run over 1 1/8 miles on turf.

Aside from Fast and Furious and Sweet Return, the candidates for the Read include Castledale, Fourty Niners Son, and Singletary. Castledale won the Shoemaker Mile in May; Singletary won the Breeders' Cup Mile at Lone Star Park last October.

Intercontinental and Ticker Tape, the first two finishers in the Royal Heroine Stakes at Hollywood Park on July 3, lead the nominations for the Mabee, which includes Scrofa, Uraib, and Winendyneme.

Sunday's program also includes the $250,000 San Diego Handicap over 1 1/16 miles, which is a prep to the richest race of the meeting - the $1 million Pacific Classic on Aug. 21.

Ace Blue, Choctaw Nation, Preachinatthe-bar, and Minister Eric are the leading contenders for the San Diego. The race will not include Southern Image, the winner of the 2004 Santa Anita Handicap. Unraced this year, Southern Image was sidelined earlier this month because of muscle soreness, trainer Mike Machowsky said. There is still hope that Southern Image, 5, will start during Del Mar.

"He came up sore on me behind the other day," Machowsky said. "We'll play it by ear and ear and jog him for a week."

The Oceanside Stakes, restricted to 3-year-olds that have not won a stakes worth $50,000 to the winner this year, will also include Becrux, County, El Roblar, and Legal Precedent.

Grass course gets new sod

Del Mar has installed a type of Bermuda grass on its turf course developed by golf champion Greg Norman.

The grass, known as GN-1 Bermuda, for Norman, the two-time British Open champion, was used last year on an area in the homestretch, through the final sixteenth and just past the finish line. According to Leif Dickinson, Del Mar's turf course superintendent, a majority of the eight-acre turf course is now covered with GN-1 Bermuda.

Development of the new course surface began last September, at the conclusion of the 2004 meeting. The course was widely criticized for deterioration in 2003, but was well-received last year.

Cesario may return to U.S. for Breeders' Cup

Cesario, the winner of the $750,000 American Oaks on July 3, has returned to Japan but has not been ruled out of a start in the $1 million Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf at Belmont Park in October, according to Toshihide Kiyota, the spokesman for trainer Katsuhiki Sumii.

"We have an open mind to it," Kiyota wrote in an e-mail, regarding the Breeders 'Cup. "At the same time, we understand that Cesario needs to rest after the race and shipping."

Cesario cleared quarantine in Japan on Wednesday and is based at Northern Farm in Hokkaido, where she was foaled.

"We expect that Cesario will grow physically and mentally through this holiday," Kiyota wrote.

Cesario became the first Japanese-bred to win a Grade 1 in the United States in the American Oaks.

Bay Meadows tries to drum up support

The Bay Meadows Land Company, which bought Hollywood Park on July 6 from Churchill Downs Inc., has appealed to horsemen in its quest to convince the state government to allow slot machines to be installed at racetracks.

In a two-page flier distributed in the stable area, Bay Meadows announced it has launched a website seeking support - www.savehorseracing.org.

At a press conference on July 6, Bay Meadows president Terrence Fancher said that the absence of slot machines could lead to the closure of Hollywood Park. He guaranteed at least three more years of live racing at Hollywood Park.

"For horse racing to continue over the long-term at Hollywood Park, the underlying economic structure of the California horse racing industry must be improved," the flier states.