06/03/2002 11:00PM

Fairplex at Santa Anita takes another hit


ARCADIA, Calif. - Opposition continues to mount over a proposal to move the Los Angeles County Fair race meet this fall from Fairplex Park to Santa Anita. The Thoroughbred Owners of California is the latest organization to express concern over the move, joining the Oak Tree Racing Association and Del Mar Thoroughbred Club in recommending against a transfer of dates.

In a Monday letter to the California Horse Racing Board, TOC president John Van de Kamp requested the CHRB "take no action on the requested move for 2002."

The CHRB will consider the Santa Anita-Fairplex dates issue at its regularly scheduled meeting Thursday.

Santa Anita and Fairplex reached an agreement last month that would allow the 17-day Los Angeles County Fair race meet (Sept. 13-29) to be held at Santa Anita, but the change in venue must be approved by the CHRB before it is enacted. In recent weeks, there has been growing unease with potential ramifications of the switch.

The board of directors of Del Mar and Oak Tree voiced opposition to the shift, which they say could negatively impact their meets. Del Mar runs 43 days before the Los Angeles County Fair meet; Oak Tree at Santa Anita runs 26 days following the Fair meet. The TOC board of directors urged the CHRB to wait before making a decision.

In his letter to the CHRB, the TOC's Van de Kamp cited "lateness of the day, the need for more information, the potential negative impacts on other tracks, the legal impediments posed, and the break from a long tradition of racing at Fairplex" as concerns. The TOC letter suggested the CHRB delay action and schedule meetings "where all questions raised can be answered - and if answered satisfactorily, put the proposed move into the mix for a future year."

Santa Anita president Jack Liebau said: "We are, of course, disappointed the TOC thinks the matter needs to be be reconsidered."

Liebau reiterated potential benefits of conducting the Fairplex meet at Santa Anita, such as increased attendance and handle, and the favor of racing over Santa Anita's one-mile track instead of the five-eighths-mile track at Fairplex. Liebau does not believe the proposed Los Angeles County Fair condition book - with average purses of $23,000 per race - would interfere with racing at Del Mar or Oak Tree.

"I find it difficult to believe that horses, instead of running at Del Mar, would run at the Fairplex-at-Santa Anita meet, because of the discrepancy in purses," he said. "I just don't see why anyone would pass a race at Del Mar, which offers the highest average purses in California [$55,000]. And why would you hurry up and run [at Fairplex] when at Oak Tree the average purse is $46,000?"

It's Kalookan Queen's turn

Now that Kona Gold has reestablished himself as the top male sprinter in California, trainer Bruce Headley will try to validate Kalookan Queen's position as the state's top female sprinter. The 6-year-old mare blew out three furlongs Tuesday at Santa Anita in 35.40 seconds, breezing, and will be favored Friday in the Grade 3 Desert Stormer Handicap at six furlongs.

"She's fabulous; she's ready to go," Headley said.

Alex Solis will ride Kalookan Queen, who beat males in the Grade 2 Potrero Grande in her last start March 30. Kalookan Queen finished second in the Desert Stormer last year, a half-length behind arch-rival Go Go, who will be making her second start following a layoff on Friday. Go Go finished fourth on April 28, her first start since last summer.

As for Kona Gold, Headley said the Grade 2, seven-furlong Triple Bend Handicap on July 6 would be considered, pending weight assignment. Kona Gold carried 125 pounds winning his comeback Sunday.

"I'll go [in the Triple Bend] if they go up one pound," Headley said. "You can run a horse back quick when they're dead fit; he was as dead fit as I could get him. I honed him."

Two more for Triple Bend

Two other sprinters eyeing the Triple Bend are Met Mile third-place finisher Crafty C. T. and No Armistice, runner-up to Kona Gold in the Los Angeles Handicap. Crafty C. T. was compromised by a wide trip in the Met Mile, won by Swept Overboard.

"He traveled so well that it gives us options," Crafty C. T.'s trainer, Howard Zucker, said. "He's a different horse from last year; he hasn't missed an oat since he got back."

Long-range considerations for Crafty C. T. are the same as with every other top sprinter - the Breeders' Cup Sprint on Oct. 26 at Arlington.

"If he's good and fresh, I am sure he'd give a good account of himself," Zucker said.

He said Crafty C. T. would be nominated to the Triple Bend, though the 4-year-old has not had much luck at Hollywood. He was injured there as a 2-year-old, and ran poorly there last summer.

Meanwhile, trainer Ron Ellis may have the horse to beat in the Triple Bend. No Armistice was gunned into an excruciating pace in the Los Angeles Handicap, setting the fastest fractions of the meet (21.49 and 43.64) before losing by 1 1/4 lengths. The likelihood of a softer pace in the seven-furlong Triple Bend would give No Armistice a tactical advantage over Kona Gold.

* The Grade 2 Honeymoon Handicap for 3-year-old fillies is the top local race Saturday. Wagering on the 1 1/8-mile turf race is expected to be dominated by the Bobby Frankel-trained Megahertz, unbeaten in three United States starts; the Jenine Sahadi-trained La Martina, runner-up by a nose to Megahertz last out; and Arabic Song, 2 for 2 this year for Neil Drysdale.