04/28/2009 11:00PM

Four-day race week under discussion


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - The head of the state's horsemen's representative and Hollywood Park officials differ on how to address the shortage of race-ready horses that resulted in the cancellation of Thursday's card because of insufficient entries.

Drew Couto, the president of the Thoroughbred Owners of California, said on Wednesday that he will recommend that Hollywood Park adopt a four-day racing week, eliminating one day a week. Track president Jack Liebau said he is hoping to continue to race five days a week.

Couto said the track would be better served by cutting Wednesdays and adding a race per day on other days. He said he hoped to discuss the matter with the TOC's board of directors and with Hollywood Park management.

"I think it will be difficult to run five days a week every week," he said. "Look at the number of horses being bred in state and nationally. We've got to run fewer days and have a schedule that makes sense. This is a reality sooner or later. Bettors don't want to bet on five- or six-horse fields.

"I can see running 10 races on weekend days and eight or nine races on Thursday and Friday. Whatever fills, I can see that happening. Some weeks, you might see more."

Couto acknowledged that other factors, such as existing contracts with labor unions that represent track workers, will also play into the decisions.

Liebau is hoping that Thursday's cancellation was an aberration, and that there will be no further disruptions to the five-day schedule through the end of the spring-summer meeting on July 19.

"I'm hoping what happened as far as Thursday goes is an unusual situation," he said. "It's been rough the last couple of days. There are a lot of factors and we'll have to see."

Through the first five days of the meeting, Hollywood Park averaged 7.27 runners per race. Through the entire 2008 spring-summer meeting, the track averaged 8.25 runners per race. Farm owners in the state have said that fewer mares are being bred this year, largely due to economic difficulties felt by breeders, leading to concern that there will be fewer horses available in coming years.

Some horses stabled at the track may only be in light training, and are not ready to race.

"There are more than 3,000 horses at Hollywood Park and Santa Anita and it's amazing we can't fill with that many horses," said Liebau.

Couto said: "It's been apparent that occupied stalls is not a fair indicator. How many of those are legitimate runners? That's the big question. It's probably 30 percent below that.

"We're not alone. Churchill Downs, once they get past the Derby, they'll feel it. New York is running small fields. It's not a problem restricted to California."

Hollywood tried to draw entries for Thursday last Sunday, and then postponed the draw until Tuesday. By mid-day on Tuesday, it became apparent that an eight-race program was not possible and the card was canceled.

Entries for Friday were drawn on Tuesday, with 75 horses entered for eight races. There will be a maximum of 68 runners on Friday because two races have also-eligible lists.

Cardinal Zin seeks first turf win

Cardinal Zin, who won a $50,000 claimer for sprinters on the main track at Santa Anita on March 22, will attempt to win his first turf race in a $48,000 allowance race over six furlongs on Friday.

The allowance is the feature race on an eight-race program that begins at 1 p.m. Pacific, the only afternoon program on a Friday during the spring-summer meeting.

Cardinal Zin is part of a field of six. Trained by Paddy Gallagher for Jon and Sarah Kelly, Cardinal Zin is winless in three starts on turf. He was second in an allowance over six furlongs on turf here last December.

Captain Kali is the only horse in the field with a win on turf. Trained by Richard Rosales, Captain Kali won a maiden race on the hillside turf course on April 5 in his seventh career start.