04/08/2010 11:00PM

Double-digit fields proving elusive


ARCADIA, Calif. - Santa Anita will complete a five-day racing week on Sunday with none of the 42 races having as many as 10 runners.

A rash of small fields throughout the week is likely to keep the track from averaging eight runners per race for the winter-spring meeting, which ends next Sunday. But for the final five days of the meeting, starting Wednesday, the track's director of racing, Mike Harlow, expects the field size situation to brighten.

"I'm hoping it's a little bit better this week," Harlow said. "If there is a day that is light, it could be Thursday. It seems like we go through a two- or three-week good run and we hit a lull. Obviously, we're disappointed with the decrease."

Through Thursday, the track had averaged 7.87 runners per race since the meeting began on Dec. 26. As recently as March 21, the meeting was averaging eight runners a race. For the entire 2008-09 winter-spring meeting, fields averaged 8.23 runners per race. More runners translate into more betting opportunities for fans and higher mutuel handle for the track.

Fields were especially small on Wednesday and Thursday, which had eight-race cards with 55 and 52 runners. Sunday's program is slightly better, with 65 horses entered on a nine-race program. The figure is likely to decline through scratches, however. The largest fields on Sunday are in the Las Cienegas Handicap and an optional claimer on turf, which each drew nine entrants.

The track most recently had a field of at least 10 runners on April 3 when 10 maidens started in the 10th race.

Complicating matters is that the stable area at Santa Anita is not full. Harlow said the track has 1,657 Thoroughbreds on the backstretch, with capacity for 1,900 racehorses.

Hollywood Park, which opens its spring-summer meeting on April 21, is bracing for a horse shortage this spring. The track will run four-day weeks for the first two weeks of the meeting and during the final weeks of the meeting in July.

Mooney calling it a career

Hollywood Park's publicity director, Mike Mooney, is retiring on Friday after a 40-year involvement in racing.

Mooney has worked in Hollywood Park publicity since 1991, lured from the Midwest by Jack Disney, who directed the publicity department at the time.

Mooney, who began his involvement in racing as a junior member of the gate crew at Fort Erie in 1968, will be replaced this summer by Bob Mieszerski, the former racing writer and handicapper at the Los Angeles Times.

Mooney, who worked as a sportswriter for newspapers in western Canada earlier in his career, cited Laffit Pincay Jr. breaking Bill Shoemaker's record for most wins by a jockey in 1999 as a highlight of his time at Hollywood Park. Mooney also developed a sports-journalism clinic for college students in conjunction with the Los Angeles Times that was held for three years.

"So many things were great, Laffit marching to the record was a highlight," he said.

Warren's Gus may head east

Warren's Gus, the winner of a two-furlong maiden race on Thursday, could be sent to Churchill Downs for the $100,000 Kentucky Juvenile Stakes over five furlongs on April 30, trainer Clifford Sise said.

"I might run there if he comes out of it well," Sise said.

Ridden in Thursday's race by Martin Pedroza, Warren's Gus ($3.80) was timed in 21.62 seconds, winning the seven-runner race by 1 1/4 lengths over 36-1 Secret Agreement.

"Martin said he could have run in 20 and change," Sise said. "He's got gears."

Warrren's Gus races for breeder Ben Warren.

The early double on Thursday was comprised of juvenile races. In the second race, Leon Ayala ($15.60) won by a neck over Free Time in 21.64 seconds.

Owned by Eligio Ayala and trained by Oscar Garcia, Leon Ayala gave the stallion Crown the King his first winner. Crown the King, 11, won 2 of 30 starts, $132,124, and was second in the 2001 Graduation Stakes at Del Mar.

In two-furlong races at Santa Anita, jockeys are not allowed to carry whips and horses are not fitted with blinkers.

Del Mar holding lottery for tables

Del Mar is holding registration from Monday through Wednesday for a random drawing for tables at three of the track's restaurants for the July 21 opening day program and the Pacific Classic program on Aug. 28.

The drawing is being held online, at delmarracing.com, and requests can be made for one table, accommodating up to four people. There is no fee to enter the drawing, but tables cost $125 if the application is successful.

The drawing opens at 9 a.m. on Monday and closes at 5 p.m. on Wednesday. The restaurants available in the drawing are the Clubhouse Terrace, Stretch Run Grill and Cafe del Sol.

The track will begin selling admission, reserved seats, and tables to those restaurants for the other days of the meeting on its website on May 14. The season runs from July 21 to Sept. 8.