07/11/2007 12:00AM

Gallagher barn stocked with 3-year-olds


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Trainer Paddy Gallagher's stable is focused on 3-year-olds this summer.

Last Saturday, the Gallagher-trained Valbenny finished a troubled second in the Grade 1 American Oaks. This Saturday, on the final weekend of the Hollywood Park spring-summer meeting, the gelding Augment makes his stakes debut in the $350,000 Swaps Stakes.

Wednesday, Bernasconi and Tycoon Doby start in the $100,000 Oceanside Stakes for 3-year-olds on turf on the opening day at Del Mar. Next month, Dilemma starts in the $150,000 La Jolla Handicap for 3-year-olds on turf on Aug. 11, and Valbenny will seek her fifth stakes win, and first in a Grade 1, in the $400,000 Del Mar Oaks on Aug. 18.

Valbenny has proven to be one of the top 3-year-old turf fillies in the nation, and there is hope in the stable that Augment can make a late impression among 3-year-old males racing on dirt.

Owned by Leonard Lavin, Augment has won 2 of 6 starts and $83,760, including an allowance race at 1 1/16 miles here on May 27. The Swaps, which is run at 1 1/8 miles, will give Lavin and Gallagher a true indication of Augment's ability. The field of six is led by Tiago, the winner of the Santa Anita Derby who was third in the Belmont Stakes last month.

"He'll have to improve," Gallagher said of Augment. "It's a big step up. It seems like the mile and an eighth will work for him, that he can go that far."

Augment is a stalker who will start from the rail. He will be ridden by Alex Solis, who rode Augment to sixth- and fourth-place finishes in sprints last fall and winter. Richard Migliore, who was aboard for three recent starts, is booked to ride Affirmed Handicap winner Desert Code in the Swaps.

Since switching to races around two turns, Augment has won twice and has not been worse than second.

If Augment turns in a big performance on Saturday, he could start in major stakes such as the Haskell Invitational or Travers Stakes next month, though Gallagher is reluctant to think that far ahead.

"He'll have to show something at the weekend," Gallagher said.

Valbenny was beaten three-quarters of a length in the American Oaks after racing in traffic on the backstretch and being soundly bumped in early stretch. The race was her first start at 1 1/4 miles on turf. The Del Mar Oaks is run at 1 1/8 miles on turf, a distance that Valbenny conquered in the Grade 2 Honeymoon Breeders' Cup Handicap last month.

Oceanside expected to be split again

Although nominations have yet to close, the Oceanside Stakes, run at a mile on turf, is likely to be divided into two divisions, which has occurred annually since 1989.

The Gallagher-trained Bernasconi has yet to win on turf. He won a six-furlong race on fibresand in England last year and an allowance race at 1 1/8 miles on the Hollywood Park Cushion Track on June 16.

Tycoon Doby won an allowance race at a mile on turf on May 23 and returned to finish third in the Grade 3 Cinema Breeders' Cup Handicap on June 23, leading by as many as five lengths in the first half of the race.

Laddies Poker will not run in the Oceanside. He topped the Barretts summer sale when purchased last month for $525,000 by Paul Reddam.

Trainer Doug O'Neill said that Laddies Poker "is not ready yet." Unraced since beating maidens at Santa Anita in April, Laddies Poker will be pointed for the La Jolla Handicap, O'Neill said.

Illness knocks Time to Get Even out of Swaps

Time to Get Even, the winner of the Grade 3 Laz Barrera Memorial Stakes here on May 20, was not entered in the Swaps Stakes because of an illness, according to Alex Solis, the son of and assistant trainer to Walther Solis.

Alex Solis, who has the same name as the successful jockey, said Time to Get Even was found to be sick following a workout last weekend. Time to Get Even was treated with antibiotics, which will prevent him from racing for a few weeks.

Time to Get Even has won 2 of 4 starts and $106,884. He was fourth in the Grade 3 Affirmed Handicap here on June 17 in his most recent start.

Del Mar adds wax before training starts

Del Mar was scheduled to complete a rewaxing of its new Polytrack synthetic surface late Wednesday in advance of the opening of the racetrack for training at dawn on Thursday. Wax and additional fibers were added to the Polytrack surface after officials felt it needed to be improved before the race meeting begins next Wednesday.

"The track seems to be a lot more consistent from morning to afternoon," said director of racing Tom Robbins, who added that the extra wax will make the surface firmer. "In the afternoon, when the heat and the sun tended to make it softer, it's given it more structure and strength, which is what it really needed."

Robbins said that Martin Collins, the supplier of Polytrack, has overseen the rewaxing process. Collins was present when Del Mar had horses test the surface during the morning and afternoon over two days in late April.

Robbins said the project began on the evening of July 4, after the conclusion of the San Diego County Fair on racetrack grounds. The workload intensified on Monday after the last of the fair-related equipment was cleared from the racetrack infield, Robbins said.

There were about 100 horses at Del Mar as of midday on Wednesday, with most stables expected to ship from the Los Angeles tracks over the weekend.