10/20/2009 11:00PM

Foot bruise knocks Rail Trip out of BC

Benoit & Associates
Rail Trip "probably needs about a week or five to seven days to walk," said trainer Ron Ellis.

By Steve Andersen

ARCADIA, Calif. - A bruised foot will keep top California hope Rail Trip from starting in the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita on Nov. 7.

Owners Mace and Samantha Siegel and trainer Ron Ellis made the decision to skip the BC Classic on Tuesday morning after Rail Trip missed a scheduled workout at Hollywood Park. The 4-year-old gelding has been battling bruised feet, Ellis said, and wouldn't be 100 percent for the Breeders' Cup.

"I think we'll shut him down," Ellis said. "He probably needs about a week or five to seven days to walk."

Ellis said that Rail Trip "sloughed his frogs" when finishing third in the Pacific Classic at Del Mar on Sept. 6. The frog is part of the bottom of the horse's hoof and has softer material than the rest of the hoof.

The trainer said he had been trying to "toughen up" Rail Trip's feet, but was not happy with the gelding's condition in the days after a six-furlong workout on Oct. 9. Rail Trip emerged from that workout with bruised feet, Ellis said.

Rail Trip has won 6 of 9 starts and $787,790, including the at 1 1/4 miles at Hollywood Park in July. He was beaten a length in the Pacific Classic.

Since Sept. 25, Rail Trip has had three workouts, at four, five, and six furlongs.

Ellis said it was unclear when Rail Trip would resume racing, at the Hollywood Park fall meeting or the Santa Anita winter-spring meeting.

"We haven't gotten that far," he said. "We want to give him the five to seven days off.

"A foot bruise won't have any lingering effect on the future. We've had a good year with this guy."

Business slumping at meeting

A week of short fields and poor attendance and handle has led to concern about a possible purse cut at the Oak Tree at Santa Anita meeting, said director of racing Mike Harlow.

Through Sunday, the 16th day of the 31-day meeting, fields had averaged 8.07 starters per race, compared to 9 horses per race for the entire 2008 Oak Tree at Santa Anita meeting.

A six-day racing week that included Monday racing on Columbus Day affected field size and business. During those days, fields averaged 7.27 starters. Ontrack handle was as low as $511,253 last Wednesday, a program that drew an ontrack crowd of 1,913. Ontrack handle on weekdays typically reaches $800,000 or more, while ontrack attendance typically ranges from 3,000 to 4,000 on Wednesdays and Thursdays to as much as 6,000 on Fridays, a day with free grandstand admission.

Similar to many other circuits in the United States, Southern California is suffering from shortage of race-ready horses. Hollywood Park's 2,000-capacity barn area is less than half full. There are vacant stalls at Santa Anita, a track that normally does not have empty stalls.

Harlow said Sunday that he expects field sizes to improve as this week continues and through the end of the meeting on Nov. 8. There are 67 horses entered for eight races Thursday, and 69 horses entered for eight races Friday, although scratches will reduce those numbers.

"When we get away from the six-day week, it will be easier," he said. "It's not the sixth day [itself], but it has an affect on the few days before and the week and a half after."

The slow business has led to a concern that purses are being overpaid relative to revenue generated from handle. Harlow said business this week will be a key indicator of whether a cut is necessary.

"We're monitoring them closely," he said. "We're right on the borderline. We need to have a good week. Business needs to pick up."

Bob Black Jack back in training

Bob Black Jack, the 2008 California-bred horse of the year, has resumed training with James Kasparoff at Hollywood Park for an expected wintertime return.

The winner of the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes last December, Bob Black Jack was taken out of training last January with a leg injury. Owned by Jeff Harmon and Tim Kasparoff, Bob Black Jack holds the world record at six furlongs of 1:06.53, set in the Sunshine Millions Dash at Santa Anita in January 2008. He has won 4 of 10 starts and $598,925.

Bob Black Jack began training for his comeback last weekend.

"He's jogging right now," Kasparoff said. "I have really no plans. I want to get up to a work and go from there. I'm very optimistic about getting him up to a work and going from there."