07/20/2009 11:00PM

A guaranteed fast start to the card

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DEL MAR, Calif. - Del Mar officials were hoping to get off to a fast start with Wednesday's opening-day card, the social event of the summer around here. On Thursday, when normalcy returns after the over-the-top events of the previous day, a quick start is guaranteed, with the first race featuring five sprinters lined up for the initial five-furlong turf race of the meet.

It's not often that the day's first race carries the day's largest purse, but with such a short field on the eight-race card, the $62,000 race was moved out of the pick-six sequence. Four of the runners are eligible for the second-level allowance condition, with Cape of Bradford in for a $62,500 claiming tag.

Cape of Bradford, new to this circuit, has wicked early speed and will be the one to catch, especially at this abbreviated distance. But her form is masked; she was pulled up in her last start in the $100,000 Valid Expectations Stakes at Lone Star Park.

Cape of Bradford has raced once on turf, in her debut in March 2008 at Fair Grounds, and faded to finish third after blasting off to a big early lead.

The consistent Schill offers a solid alternative. She has finished in the money in 11 of her last 12 starts and has won 3 of her last 5 races.

"Everything's all right for her - short, long, main track, turf, up close, off the pace," said Dan Ward, assistant to Jerry Hollendorfer, who trains Schill. "She's pretty hard to fault."

Flashover, a two-time winner on the downhill turf course at Santa Anita, makes her first start since March.

"She didn't like Hollywood Park, and it seemed like a good time to give her a month off," Barry Abrams, who trains and co-owns Flashover, said Tuesday morning. "And she usually runs well fresh. With the Cal-bred bonus, the race is worth $80,000 for her."

Air Fair finished fourth in a six-furlong turf sprint at Hollywood Park in her last start, but she was a winner on the downhill course at Santa Anita earlier in the year. She has never raced at a distance shorter than six furlongs.

"She's a nice filly. She tries hard. But I'm worried this might be too short for her," said David Hofmans, who has taken over as Air Fair's trainer. Her previous trainer, Christopher Paasch, is in the process of disbanding his stable and retiring to Oregon.

Sovine comes off consecutive wins against softer company in turf sprints at Hollywood.