07/28/2006 11:00PM

Happy Ticket heads West for Hirsch


DEL MAR, Calif. - The main track stakes for fillies and mares in California get a much-needed new participant for Sunday's $300,000 Clement Hirsch Handicap at Del Mar.

Happy Ticket, the winner of the Grade 2 Fleur de Lis Handicap at Churchill Downs in June, will make her California debut in the Grade 2 Hirsch at 1 1/16 miles.

"We want to come West, take a mini-vacation, and run her," trainer Andy Leggio said on Saturday from his base at Louisiana Downs.

Owned by breeder Stewart Madison, Happy Ticket, 5, has won 12 of 17 starts and $1,176,838. She has won two stakes this year - the Louisiana Premier Distaff Stakes at Evangeline Downs in February and the Fleur de Lis.

Happy Ticket was second in two stakes at Oaklawn Park earlier this year - the Azeri Breeders' Cup Stakes on March 11 and the Grade 1 Apple Blossom Handicap on April 8. She lost both races by a neck.

In the Hirsch, Happy Ticket will face a trio of mares that have won major stakes this year - Healthy Addiction, Hollywood Story, and Star Parade. Healthy Addiction won the Grade 1 Santa Margarita Handicap at Santa Anita in March, Hollywood Story won the Grade 1 Vanity Handicap at Hollywood Park in July, and Star Parade won the Grade 1 Santa Maria Handicap at Santa Anita in February.

They have been the core of a group that has run in many of the circuit's leading main track stakes for females.

Happy Ticket won the Grade 1 Ballerina Stakes at Saratoga last August. Leggio is eager to try her against the best mares in California.

"She fits right in with this group," Leggio said. "She's run three solid races in the last three months."

Leggio said that Julien Leparoux will ride Happy Ticket. Leparoux leads the nation's riders in victories.

Happy Ticket's trip to California is being partially financed by the California Marketing Committee, an industry organization designed to promote racing.

"The goal is to get a group of horses to California," said Del Mar director of racing Tom Robbins. "We're trying to expose California to people that haven't seen it."

Mullins facing a drug positive

Trainer Jeff Mullins has been notified by the California Horse Racing Board that one of his starters at the Hollywood Park spring-summer meeting tested positive for an excess amount of mepivacaine, an anesthetic which is considered a Class 2 drug by the Association of Racing Commi-ssioners International.

The positive was found in a post-race test of Robs Coin, the runner-up in the seventh race on July 8.

Mullins said that a split sample of urine taken from Robs Coin has been sent for testing. The leading trainer at the Hollywood Park spring-summer meeting, Mullins declined further comment, referring inquiries to his attorney, Neil Papiano.

The findings of the second test will determine whether Mullins faces possible sanctions. If the second test reveals an excess of the permitted level of the medication, Mullins could face a fine or suspension, pending a hearing with the California Horse Racing Board.

Mullins's barn was searched by CHRB investigators last Thursday.

Last month, trainer Steve Asmussen began a six-month suspension after one of his runners at Evangeline Downs in Louisiana tested positive for mepivacaine,.

Court hopes double gets him going

Friday may have been a turning point at the Del Mar meeting for jockey Jon Court.

After winning with just three of his first 40 mounts in the first eight days of the meeting, Court had two winners on Friday, including a victory in the $91,425 Daisycutter Handicap aboard Starkay.

"It feels good," said Court, 45, "I've had some troubled trips and some things didn't work out."

Court finished the Hollywood Park spring-summer meeting with just 19 wins from 226 mounts. While he was out of the top 10 in victories, his mounts earned $1.298 million, good enough for seventh in money earned.

A few stakes wins at Del Mar would help Court equal that total. Winning with Starkay gave a boost to his confidence, he said.

"I feel I've restored the energy level that I had coming in" to this meeting, Court said.

Court confidently rode Starkay. Breaking from post 2 in a field of five, Starkay led by a half-length over 2-1 favorite Sandra's Rose through early fractions of 21.92 and 44.32 seconds. Sandra's Rose never got closer as Starkay stretched her lead to 1 1/2 lengths at the wire, covering the five furlongs in 55.73 seconds.

"She was on her game today," Court said.

Sandra's Rose finished a nose in front of The Yellow Sheet.

Starkay races for Ross McLeod and Thomas Bell and is trained by Roger Stein. Starkay, 6, has won 7 of 35 starts and $195,995. The Daisycutter was her second stakes win in the U.S.; she won the Exotic Wood at Hollywood Park in June 2005.

Double DQ

A rare double disqualification occurred in Friday's sixth race, resulting in the demotion of first-place finisher Past Tender and third-place finisher Spunky Harry.

In a one-mile turf race for claimers, Past Tender, sent off at 24-1, finished first by three-quarters of a length but drifted out in deep stretch, interfering with fourth-place finisher Wee Jinky. A few strides later, Spunky Harry drifted to the inside, and forced Fighting City Hall to be checked. Fighting City Hall, who nearly fell, finished seventh.

After an eight-minute inquiry, the stewards promoted runner-up Stephen Bruce ($59.60) to first, moved Wee Jinky to second, and demoted Past Tender to third. Spunky Harry was disqualified and placed seventh, behind Fighting City Hall.

Jockey Martin Garcia rode Spunky Harry and could face a suspension from stewards. He is appealing a three-day suspension from earlier in the meeting, and will be allowed to ride on Monday, one of the days covered in the suspension.

* Jim Castle, the owner of the handicapping service Analist Turf in Arcadia, Calif., died on July 11 after a lengthy battle with cancer at age 67. He is survived by his wife Bobbie.