06/13/2007 11:00PM

High demand for Del Mar stalls

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. – Del Mar has received more than 4,000 applications for the 2,000 available stalls for its upcoming summer meeting, according to director of racing Tom Robbins.

The strong response is the latest indication of interest in Del Mar’s program, which offers the highest purses in California, and of the track’s meeting from July 18 to Sept. 5, which will be the first run on a synthetic track, Polytrack.

This year’s roster of trainers requesting stabling features several new names, including Midwest trainers Cody Autrey and Dale Romans; Patrick Biancone, who has raced in California during the winter in recent years; and Richard Dutrow Jr. and Lisa Lewis, who have had stables in California since November.

Robbins said trainers will be notified in coming weeks of stall allotments.

Romans said he hopes to receive 15 stalls, but has not decided which horses will be sent, pending conversations with clients. He said some horses he trains that are owned by Don Dizney will be part of the group. Dizney has expressed an interest to Romans in racing in California.

Romans, best known as the trainer of 2005 Dubai World Cup winner Roses in May, has never had a stable at Del Mar. He had his first winner in California in January when the Dizney-owned Joint Effort won the Sunshine Millions Distaff at Santa Anita.

“I’d say I’m about 80 percent” to race at Del Mar, Romans said. “We’d start with 15 and try something new.”

Romans said his breakup with prominent owner Ken Ramsey last fall was a factor, since Ramsey races at Saratoga in New York during the summer.

“Since my stable has changed without him, we’ll just try California,” Romans said.

Robbins said the track will open for training on the morning of July 9, following the conclusion of the San Diego County Fair, which is held on racetrack grounds.

Robbins said Del Mar will offer a purse structure similar to 2006. He said there is optimism among track executives that business will be strong enough to offer a retroactive purse payment at a later date.

“We anticipate if everything goes right, we might fill a little higher-quality card,” Robbins said. “Theoretically, if you fill better races, and fewer maiden claimers and few $10,000 [claimers], the purse structure is higher. If we can keep our field sizes up, we feel we can be in good shape.

“It’s a hard thing to gauge. You’ve got to include all of the various factors. We were pretty weak last year at the start. Things got better in the second half of the meeting, and all of that needs to be factored.”

Del Mar made a retroactive purse payment annually from 2003 to 2005. The retroactive payment for the 2005 meeting was $1 million.

Del Mar offers the highest purses on the circuit. For example, a maiden special weight race for sprinters was worth $53,000 at Del Mar last year. The same race was worth $46,000 earlier this year at Santa Anita and at the current Hollywood Park meeting.

Desert Code iffy for Affirmed

Sunday’s $100,000 Affirmed Handicap for 3-year-olds has drawn a field of six, but there may not be that many starters.

Trainer David Hofmans entered Desert Code but said he is taking a cautious approach to starting the stakes winner on turf. Hofmans said Desert Code would start “if someone with speed scratches. I want to look at the race.”

Desert Code has won 3 of 8 starts and $167,474. He finished third, beaten a neck, behind Affirmed entrant Time to Get Even in the Laz Barrera Memorial Stakes on May 20.

The Affirmed is run at 1 1/16 miles. The top contenders are Cobalt Blue, the winner of the Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita in March, and Albertus Maximus, the impressive winner of an allowance race here on May 3.

Expensive juveniles make debut

A $46,000 maiden special weight race for 2-year-olds in Saturday’s fourth race features eight first-time starters from 10 entrants, including three colts that cost $100,000 or more at yearling and 2-year-old auctions.

Dollar Mountain, a $530,000 yearling purchase at Keeneland last September, makes his debut for owner B. Wayne Hughes and trainer Richard Mandella. By Forestry, Dollar Mountain has had several quick works. Mandella, however, is cautious.

“I’m hoping he’s not a showoff,” Mandella said. “I think he’ll get off slowly. I hope he finishes well and win. He’s kind of a clown on the racetrack. I’m thinking he might need one, but he does show enough to give you hope.”

Trainer Christopher Paasch starts Media Man, a Forestry colt purchased for $225,000 at a 2-year-olds in training sale in February. Owned by Charlie Cono, Media Man drew the rail.

Trainer Jeff Mullins starts Yes It’s a Cat, a Tactical Cat colt purchased for $160,000 at a 2-year-olds in training sale in April. Yes It’s a Cat has worked well in recent weeks.

Ral Ayers, assistant trainer to Jeff Mullins, said that Yes It’s a Cat has been trained behind horses in some of his workouts.

“We’re hoping for a good experience and a good trip for him,” Ayers said. “We want him to be finishing strong. If he can win, that’s great.”

River’s Prayer takes third straight

River’s Prayer extended her stakes winning streak to three races in Thursday’s $97,375 Great Lady M. Stakes, overcoming a slow start to win by two lengths.

Ridden by Clinton Potts, River’s Prayer ran six furlongs on turf in a quick 1:08.21, easily beating Valid’s Valid. Silly Little Mama finished third in the field of five fillies and mares.

Trained by Paula Capestro, River’s Prayer won two stakes on Santa Anita’s hillside turf course earlier this year – the Irish O’Brien Handicap for California-breds in March and the Grade 3 Las Cienegas Handicap in April.